TRC Blog: Textile Moments


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


Diversity and Quality of the TRC Collection

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


Afghan 'Messi' has fled with his family to Pakistan

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


The Embroidery Show

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


Some interesting meetings in London

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 


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

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

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

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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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: 

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