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The study of textile conservation would appear to be far more pessimistic than the other divisions. Due to the inherent nature of textiles themselves, many of the treatments mentioned in both the text, Winterthur Guide to Caring for Your Collection, and the lecture presented by Angela Duckwall, appear to be less concerned with helping the textile endure than attempting to reduce the stresses that result from normal display. The difference in these statements may be subtle; but whereas, for instance, with a metal sculpture, the application of a varnish may aide in the sculpture’s long term preservation and allow it to be more readily displayed, in the case of a textile, it seem that preparing an object for display simply increases the rate of decay, the trade off being that the textile would be lessened in its interpretive or aesthetic value if display was not possible.
The question of displaying textiles would therefore seem a more pointed ethical issue than the display of other media. A hypothetical example might be of a historically notable textile, the display of which would aide in understanding and relevancy of the history it represents to its viewers. However, the mere act of the textile’s display may result in decay that would deprive future generations of the ability to find the relevance experienced by contemporary viewers. However, this in itself provides a problem: if such a textile was locked in a dark room, it might last somewhat longer, but lack viewers to influence. Therefore, display would seem the better option of the two scenarios presented.
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Therefore, I ask you, my readers, what do you think? Textiles by their nature, are delicate and prone to decay, but their display is could be important for furthering public knowledge of material culture, something which cannot be achieved by locking them away in dark rooms only accessible by researchers. What should be the proper balance of strict preservation and display? Should some pieces be strictly preserved? Or perhaps I am wrong, and there are ways to enjoy the best of both worlds, like many of the other disciplines in conservation.