Technological tapestry to provide conservation answers
A technological tapestry has been unveiled at Intech, the interactive Science Centre in Winchester, which will help provide conservation solutions for historical artefacts using techniques more commonly used by engineers to assess damage in aircraft.
The tapestry, which has been designed by students at the University of Southampton’s Winchester School of Art and woven by West Dean Tapestry Studio, is part of a unique collaborative research project between textile conservators and engineers at the University. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.
The project involves monitoring environmental damage to historical artefacts by the use of optical fibres woven into the fabric itself. The researchers, led by Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation Frances Lennard, are investigating monitoring techniques commonly used by engineers to assess damage in aircraft. Here the same techniques are being used to give an accurate picture of damage occurring in historic tapestries before the damage is visible to the naked eye.
The project is supported by the National Trust and English Heritage. Frances Lennard comments: “Both organisations own large collections of tapestries in their historic houses and this research will help them understand their collections better and help to prioritise conservation treatments.”
The display at Intech was constructed with funding from the Institute of Physics Public Engagement Grant Scheme available to members of the Institute. The display was designed by Helen Williams, a PhD student in the School of Engineering Sciences.
As well as monitoring a completely new tapestry, the researchers are also monitoring a historic tapestry at the National Trust's Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. Visitors to this National Trust house this summer will be able to see the monitoring in progress and find out more about the project.