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Archives & Museum Informatics



Flowers of Silk and Gold

Maury Sullivan, The Textile Museum, USA

Session: Demo Session 2

Flowers of Silk and Gold Online ( ) allows a small innovative museum to serve its international constituency while continuing to develop relationships within the local community. This website complements the exhibition Flowers of Silk and Gold: Four Centuries of Ottoman Embroidery (on view at The Textile Museum February 18 - July 30, 2000). By creating Flowers of Silk and Gold Online [FSG Online] the Museum makes itself more accessible to its members who live outside the Washington, DC area while attracting new visitors who may have never before heard of the Museum.

The Textile Museum is an international center for the exhibition, study, collection, and preservation of the textile arts with 4,000 members worldwide. Founded in 1925, the Museum explores the role that textiles play in the daily and ceremonial life of individuals the world over. Special attention is given to textiles of the traditional societies of the Near East, Asia, Africa and the indigenous cultures of the Americas. The Museum presents changing exhibitions featuring objects from a collection of over 16,000 textiles and carpets. Conservation of textiles restricts the amount of time they are on display. After an exhibition, objects may not be shown again for five years. For this reason and because of limited gallery space there is no permanent exhibition on view.

In 1998, the Museum launched a website to give information about exhibitions and programs. This year, for the first time, The Textile Museum has created an online component to complement an exhibition. Building on objects in the exhibition (many never before exhibited or published), FSG Online includes images, activities and lesson plans to use textiles as a window onto a culture, specifically the Ottoman Empire.

FSG Online is a unique and innovative site that allows the Museum to reach out to its public as it never has before. Thumbnails of the textiles can be clicked on to provide a larger image as well as structural information on how the textiles were made. Video micrographs, which provide up to 80 times magnification, allow web visitors to get closer than possible in the galleries to investigate intricate stitchwork. This new technology had previously only been available for the curators' use. Lesson plans created for middle to high school students and developed for teachers show how Museum objects, in this case textiles, can provide insight into Ottoman culture. And for the first time teachers can schedule a tour of the Museum or order slides for classroom use online.

FSG Online demonstrates the power of the web for small institutions. Not only does this project build on museum objects and programs, it expands the scope of information we are able to offer our visitors. While this site complements an exhibition of fixed length, the textiles on view and the stories they can tell will live long after they come off the walls. FSG Online will be the first in a virtual archive of select Textile Museum exhibitions.