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Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.The last few days have been spent in Cairo. I was invited to attend the 2nd Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) conference about Tutankhamun and to give a lecture about the embroidered and beaded garments from the tomb of the young king. Prof. Olaf Kaper (Leiden University) and I gave lectures on different aspects of the textiles and garments associated with Tutankhamun. There were also other lectures about the textiles, notably by Issam Ezzat, Hamza Nagm and Mie Ishii, who all discussed different aspects of the conservation of the textiles. There was also a very interesting talk by Christian Eckman on the damage and repair of the golden mask. And Jan Picton (UCL London) talked about the textiles from Gurob and how some of the 'missing' garments of Tutankhamun may have looked like.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to jewellery and other items from the tomb, such as the wide variety of plants. The third day was full of fireworks as it included Nicholas Reeves and Zahi Hawas (who was in combative mood). The basic upshot was that there is no conclusive evidence that there are more rooms associated with the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Yesterday, Monday, was spent looking at some textiles and talking with colleagues at GEM, and then a visit to the Egyptian Museum to look at the Tutankhamun textiles still on display there and to talk with conservation staff about their work. Most enjoyable, and it meant I had time to look at certain textiles in detail to check facts, confirm the (minute) size of the glass beads used for various garments and to ponder how to make replica garments, and indeed that always presents the question how to pay for them (a team of specialist weavers, embroiderers, etc is already in place). There then followed a short interlude in the academic thought process via an ice cold hibiscus drink in the garden of the Marriott hotel on Zamalek (as I said life can be so hard).

Today I go back to the Egyptian Museum to check even more details about the Tut textiles and to give a talk to the conservation staff about the Tutankhamun textiles and garments in general. And then a wander around the museum to look at some more textiles and beaded garments. Later in the day I will see a friend in Cairo who has the most amazing collection of Egyptian regional dress dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 May 2016

The recent donation of a large collection of European traditional dress means that the TRC Collection is growing more rapidly than expected. So for the last few months we have been looking at what we have, what we are doing and where do we want to go. The TRC Collection now includes items from about 135 countries. Since July 2011 there are officially 195 independent sovereign states in the world, with about 60 dependent areas and five disputed territories (such as Kosovo). So the TRC Collection is beginning to truly reflect the diversity of the world of textiles and traditional dress.

The further expansion of the TRC Collection is now going to be directed, even more than before, on quality and on building up the depth of the collection, in order to reflect life in its many varied aspects, including items for men, women and children (some people think our collection is just made up of women’s clothing, which is simply not the case). This would mean that more items will be available during the courses, lectures and workshops for people to see and in some cases handle, and  we would have more material available for research.

To help people understand the diversity of the TRC Collection, the database of the collection has gone online on the 1st July 2016. Not every item is described in great detail (there are over 25000 items after all, by March 2018), nor are there photographs of everything. But every week new details and images are added and after four years, all items will be fully described and provided with one or more photographs. Exciting days ahead as the TRC truly goes international. For the digital catalogue, click here. For a more detailed introduction to the collection, click here.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director TRC

On 31 January, I reported on a young Afghan boy who rose to global stardom when he was photographed by his brother wearing a plastic bag as a T-shirt with the name of Messi written on it by a ballpoint. The BBC just reported that he and his family have fled to Pakistan, after threats by local criminals who demanded money from the 'famous' family. The boy, Murtaza Ahmadi, and seven of his kin now live in one room in Quetta.

Willem Vogelsang, 3 May 2016

Reverse of an embroidery of Rembrandt's De Nachtwacht.Reverse of an embroidery of Rembrandt's De Nachtwacht.Today I was struck by an announcement in the Dutch press. It is about a famous modern Dutch artist who tells about his fascination with embroidery. The Embroidery Show is an exhibition that is held in Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle, The Netherlands, from 28 April to 18 September 2016. It shows some one thousand embroideries that were collected since 2005 at various flea markets and other places by the Dutch artist, Rob Scholte.

With this collection and the exhibition the artist wants to highlight, in his own words, “traditional, handmade embroideries, which mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers (and sometimes men) of our country have made, anonymously, with much love and patience, in the few hours of spare time that they had…. The result of all these weeks, months and years of hard work is sold by their descendants for an euro.”

With the exhibition Scholte wants to give embroideries the respect that they deserve. What he does, surprisingly, is showing the back of the embroideries, together with all their fringes and loose hanging threads. He frames them backwards, signs them, and shows them as such to the public. It is the reverse of the embroideries, according to the artist, that shows the efforts and the character of the embroiderer. The exhibition shows the backside of the embroidered masterpieces of Dutch painting, by Rembrandt, Vermeer and many others.

Willem Vogelsang, 28 April 2016

The last few days have been very busy at the TRC, especially as I was asked to go to London to give a lecture about Iranian regional dress. So early on Thursday (21st April), I flew to London. In the morning I had an appointment at Hand & Lock, a hand embroidery company that dates back to the late eighteenth century. It specialises in military embroidery using various gold work techniques, as well as machine embroidered patches, and so forth. They also make dresses and garments for film and pop stars and royalty from around the world. I was given a conducted tour of the premises as well as having the chance to meet various members of staff and to discuss how we can work together. Lots of potential, including shared exhibitions, reference collections of military laces, and so forth. They also have a very interesting archive that I would love to dive into, especially the folders marked Iraq and Oman that date back to the first half of the 20th century.

The next appointment was with a colleague who works at Bloomsbury Press (who are the publishers of The Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, 2016). We are discussing the possibility of the TRC producing two more books about the history of embroidery and to make it into a series. We will shortly hear if Bloomsbury is officially interested and if yes, we will let you know.

And then in the evening I gave a lecture for the Iranian Society (London) at the Army and Navy Club. I should like to thank Janet Rady and Antony Wynn for asking me to come and give the lecture and for their hospitality in London. It was much appreciated. The lecture was based on one I gave in Edinburgh last year and is about how the TRC came to have the largest collection of Iranian regional dress outside of Iran. There were many people attending the lecture and the feedback was very positive, if not a little surprised that such a collection actually exists in Europe. This was one of the main reasons I gave the lecture, so that more attention can be given to the collection. I also announced that we are now looking for €8000 to pay for the collection to be properly catalogued and photographed, prior to it coming on-line on the TRC Collection Database, as well as for illustrations in the book we are currently writing about Iranian regional dress based on the TRC items.

In 2013, I would like to add, the TRC staged a large exhibition about Iranian regional dress called Beyond the Chador, which included 83 outfits, plus individual items. The items used in this exhibition are available to other suitable institutes should they wish to put on such a diverse and colourful exhibition.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 26 April 2016 

"Dat jurkje is hier vlakbij uit zee opgevist." ('That dress was fished out of the sea nearby').

This afternoon Gillian and I spent a few hours on a boat out shrimp fishing off the coast of the island of Texel, in the north of The Netherlands. At a certain moment the captain told us that 'that dress' was found nearby. He referred to an early 17th century dress that was found some two years ago underwater, in a chest covered with sand, near the island of Texel. The find was only made public some ten days ago, and since last week it can be seen in a local museum, Kaap Skil, in the village of Oudeschild, on Texel. It drew attention from all over the world.

The dress of Jean Kerr, found off the coast of Texel.The dress of Jean Kerr, found off the coast of Texel.The dress was of course the reason that Gillian and I, after attending a wedding in Alkmaar, travelled north yesterday evening, took the ferry to Texel, and checked in at an idyllic hotel at the little harbour of Oudeschild. First thing this morning we went to the local museum and there it was, beautifully displayed together with other finds from the same shipwreck. The dress almost looks as if it was worn yesterday and thrown into the laundry basket. It is incredible that the garment has been preserved underwater for so long.

I don't have to refer to the details of the dress. Much has been published about it in recent days (see also the TRC facebook pages). We now know it was part of the wardrobe of a lady at the court of the British King, Charles I, who around 1642 sent his eleven-year old daughter, Mary, to Holland to join her husband, William II of the House of Orange. The young girl was accompanied by her mother, the Queen, and many followers. Yet, the real reason for the diplomatic mission may have been to send his jewellery and other valuables over to Holland for safe keeping in the face of the growing opposition led by Cromwell. The revolt of the Parliamentarians, as you know, would eventually cost the king his throne and his head.

Twelve ships brought the Queen and her daughter to Holland, together with the valuables of the king and his followers. One of these ships was shipwrecked off the coast of Texel, and that particular ship contained the wardrobe of one of the British ladies. From recovered contemporary correspondence we now seem to know the name of the owner of the dress. It was Jean Kerr (1585-1643), the Countess of Roxburghe, who was 57 at the time. She was (partly) identified because of her dress size, namely what is now size 42. She was a Catholic, and lady-in-waiting to Henrietta Maria, the French wife of King Charles I, and the mother of the young bride. When the news of the shipwreck reached England, one of the opponents of the King gleefully said that the Ladies and their maids now had to cover themselves in Dutch cloth. Whether or not wearing Dutch clothing is such a bad thing I could not honestly say, but sadly she did not survive the loss of her clothing for long.

Willem Vogelsang, 23 April 2016

Chris Lebeau, 1878-1945Chris Lebeau, 1878-1945

The TRC has just been given a collection of textile books for its library. Among the many items was a thin booklet with the title, Catalogus van Lakens en Sloopen van E.J.F. van Dissel en Zonen te Eindhoven. The booklet dates from about 1911/12. The company of Van Dissel was set up in the early 1870s by the Rev. E.J.F. van Dissel, initially in the village of Bladel in the eastern part of the Netherlands and from 1873 it was established in nearby Stratum (near the town of Eindhoven).

From 1890 the company was run by other members of the Van Dissel family and it developed into a large linen concern that employed a number of famous Dutch designers, as well as hundreds of workers. Van Dissel fused with another Dutch company, Van den Briel and Verster (also known as the Koninklijke Eindhovensche Damast-Linnen & Pellen Fabriek), in 1963. The factory was closed in 1971.

The booklet given to the TRC is basically a sales catalogue of designs for hand and machine embroidery that could be worked on Napkins, with designs by Chris Lebeau.Napkins, with designs by Chris Lebeau.pillows and sheets intended to make up part of a bride’s dowry. There are over forty designs in the book that was intended to show how pillow covers and sheets could be used together to create various artistic scenes. There is also a section on monograms that could be worked by the company or at home.

The embroidery designs and illustrations in the sales catalogue were produced by the Dutch illustrator, painter and graphic designer, but also anarchist and vegetarian, Chris (Joris Johannes Christiaan) Lebeau (1878-1945). He worked for Van Dissel in the early part of the twentieth century. He also worked for a number of other companies, including those producing flags and banners, glass wear and graphic designs. Between 1926-1928, for example, he made wall paintings for the Old-Catholic Church (built in 1926; Zouterwoudsesingel 49), in Leiden. He even produced a series of Dutch stamps called the Vliegende Duif (“Flying dove”), which were available in the Netherlands from 1924, and which were again issued in 1941.

Lebeau was also famous for his graphic textile designs that were used for batiks, curtains and tapestries. But he was particularly known for his wide range of patterns for woven linen items, such as damask table cloths, serviettes, pillow cases and sheets. It is some of these designs that are illustrated in the catalogue.

Just before the beginning of the Second World War (1939-1945), Lebeau entered into a fake marriage with a German Jewish refugee in order to help her staying in Holland. During the war itself he used his artistic talents to create false identity papers for various people. He was arrested in November 1943 and sent to Dachau concentration camp where he died on 2 April 1945. American troops entered the camp on the 28th. An exhibition of Lebeau's work was set up in the Drents Museum, Assen, in 1987.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 April 2016

Dutch stamps (the Vliegende Duif series) designed by Chris LebeauDutch stamps (the Vliegende Duif series) designed by Chris Lebeau

Four traditional men's belts from Romania. TRC collection.Four traditional men's belts from Romania. TRC collection.It has been an exciting day at the TRC (when is it not?). As you may know, in January (2016) we heard about a large collection of European regional dress that was looking for a new home and the TRC agreed to help out. Thanks to the support of various members of the Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging and a very generous donation from Rotary Leiden, we have been able to cover the main costs of bringing the collection to Leiden and purchasing storage racks. Other donations, including one particular donation from Australia, means we have enough money to cover the boxes, etc. And today, 2nd April, saw the first batch of the collection coming to the TRC. The second group of items will be coming in two weeks.

Dressed figures, outfits, individual garments and textiles, all arrived this afternoon in numerous boxes and by the rack load. We are now busy sorting out  and examining the contents, working out where items come from and what they go with. There are many items from Germany, including a wide range of 20th century women's caps decorated with embroidery, ribbons and in some cases pom-poms. There are also outfits from the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, Sweden, as well as Lapland. And that is just in the boxes and on the mannequins. We have not yet opened the clothing bags that are hanging from two large racks. We will be cataloguing those next week. The exciting job, which is made a little harder because we are not sure what will come in the second batch of the collection. But that is what makes working at the TRC fun, challenging and inspirational.Close-up of leather-embroidered traditional Romanian belt. TRC collection.Close-up of leather-embroidered traditional Romanian belt. TRC collection.

In August 2016 we are going to use many of these items in an exhibition about European regional dress, with an emphasis on embroidered and beaded items. It is going to be a colourful display that will include some unusual items. More details to come .....

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 2 April 2016

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Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  

Open on Mondays - Thursdays
from 10.00 - 16.00.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome!

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: