The Textile Research Centre (TRC) was set up in 1991 as an independent foundation and is since 2009 housed at Hogewoerd 164, in the centre of historic Leiden, The Netherlands. Here it has the use of an exhibition space, a large depot, offices and workrooms. The basic aim of the TRC is to give the study of textiles its proper place in the field of the humanities and social sciences. It does so by providing courses and lectures, carrying out research and by the presentation of textiles and dress from all over the world. The two main focal paints of the TRC are (a) dress and identity: what people wear in order to say who they are and (b) pre-industrial textile technology.
The TRC is officially recognised as a Culturele ANBI ('Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling'), which confirms its charitable status, as well as making financial donations tax deductible for Dutch tax payers at a favourable rate. In order to support the work of the TRC, it has and is building up various collections, including a Textile and Garment Collection and a Reference Collection. In addition, research is aided by the TRC’s library (some 2000 books, a large collection of articles, as well as visual material such as photographs and postcards).
Textile, Garment and Accessories Collection
The TRC's collection of textiles, garments and accessories includes items from all over the world, literally from the Andes, via Zanzibar, to Japan. The collection now includes some 14000 items and is still rapidly growing. The objects are used for research, teaching, exhibitions and publications. The catalogue is currently being published on line, with photographs of all the objects and a brief description.
Within the Textile and Garment Collection, the TRC has three main specializations: firstly, Middle Eastern dress for men, women and children, mainly from Egypt, Iran, Oman, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. It is also building up a strong Coptic monastic and liturgical collection reflecting an ancient Christian community within the Muslim World. The second specialisation is Dutch Urban and Regional Dress. This part of the collection includes individual garments and outfits for men, women and children, from all the main groups who, during the 19th and 20th centuries, wore Dutch regional dress, urban dress and uniforms. The third specialisation is embroidery world-wide, both as regards its techniques and its designs, with a special focus on the history and use of embroidery in the Middle East. This focus led to the publication by Bloomsbury Publishers (London, UK) of The Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World (February 2016). A second volume, on Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and South Asia, is being prepared.
A larger introduction to the diversity of the TRC is collection can be read here.
The TRC is currently building up a reference collection of samples and actual objects that can be used for identification purposes, as well as (in some cases) providing samples for the analytical analysis of textiles (fibre, dye, DNA, etc. analysis). This collection includes fibres samples, thread types, woven and non-woven forms, lace, embroidered and printed textiles, as well as various types of equipment used to make textiles. This reference collection is available to research institutions and scholars to help in the identification of textile forms and techniques. The TRC is working with the Dutch National Forensic Institute in building up this facility.
The TRC’s library currently includes over 2000 books. These books include a wide range of subjects relating to textiles and dress. They are arranged in three basic groups: (a) reference books; (b) ‘how-to’ books, and (c) regional textile and dress forms. A catalogue of the library contents is now on-line. The library catalogue can be consulted on line. In addition, the library group is currently cataloguing the TRC’s collections of articles and images/videos, with the aim of bringing them on-line shortly.
In order to ‘spread the word’ about textiles and dress, the TRC organises a series of intensive courses and workshops on a wide variety of textile and dress related subjects, including textile technology. These include a 5-day course on the basic techniques required to produce a textile, which attracts national as well as international students. Workshops include the Wednesday Workshop, which is a mixture of historical background and a practical. Subjects covered by the Wednesday Workshop, organised every last Wednesday of the month, include a wide range of topics, literally from Leiden broadcloth (a form of woolen material), Middle Eastern embroidery, Chinese Straits beadwork and how to wear a Japanese kimono. The TRC works closely together with Leiden University and other educational institutes, with respect to research and the supervision of students. The TRC has been officially recognised as an erkend leerbedrijf (‘officially recognised educational institution') by the Stichting ECABO (under no. 9767310), in Amersfoort.
In order to make the study of embroidery in its widest meaning more visible and emphasise its role in cultures and societies from all over, TRc has started a digital encyclopaedia, TRC Needles, with brief entries on all aspects related to needlework. The encyclopaedia not only discusses the many techniques and materials being used, but also refers to regional traditions, NGO's, commercial companies, scientists and industrialists, paintings and films, all being discussed in order to emphasise the fascinating world of embroidery and its many ramifications, and the approaches it opens to a better understanding of the world.
The TRC presents two exhibitions each year at the TRC Gallery, which are based on items from its collection. A wide range of subjects have been covered, including African textiles and dress, embroidery from the Arab World, the Chinese Cheongsam (a dress style popular in China), but also on less traditional subjects, such as that of protective and decorative footwear. Other exhibitions focussed on gold and silver in and on textiles, 18th century woven textiles and garments, as well as clothing used for political purposes. In addition, exhibitions have been made with, amongst others, the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden; the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden; Leiden Council; the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the Textile Museum, Boras, Sweden and the National Art Gallery, Amman, Jordan.
The direct objective of the TRC is to create the foundations for an international institute for the study of textiles and clothing from around the world. The current work of the TRC is geared towards establishing strong foundations for such an institute. In particular, the role of the analytical examination of textiles is becoming a priority, as is the setting up of a textile laboratory with the required equipment to carry out the necessary tests. This work will be carried out in conjunction with other research institutes in the Netherlands. But above all the TRC remains committed to ‘spreading the word’ that textiles and dress are an essential subject in the lives of men and women throughout the world, and have been since Adam and Eve started covering themselves.
TRC in a nutshell
Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428 email@example.com
Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment.
Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59
Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !