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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License


Digitally Printed Textiles: Their Potential Use in Costume Collections and Living-History Museums
Anne Bissonnette, The Kent State University Museum, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations 1

Professionals working in various corners of the museum world or in close relation with a museum have found it challenging to display objects that were severely modified throughout their lifetimes. The Kent State University Museum, a museum dedicated to costumes and decorative arts, has found it particularly difficult to exhibit many partial or altered 18th century clothing items from its collection made of brocades, printed and embroidered textiles.

Fortunately, new computer software programs and digital dye-jet textile printers now offer innovative ways to print small quantities of reproduction fabrics using documented originals. In the fall of 2001, a team of museum and design professionals was assembled to make use of this new technology, which can change the way traditional, and living history museums present costumes. Their aim was to produce historically accurate, safe, esthetically pleasing, and ethical fabrics.

The results can be seen on The Kent State University Museum's website at www.kent.edu in a section called "Get Connected: Inter-Disciplinary Projects." The Museum's Website is an elaborate on-going project unique among museums dedicated to costumes and textiles. For one, the Website's Webmaster is also the Museum's Curator. This enables an important amount of research to be used on the site that was not always presented at length within exhibition material, which is by nature very concise. Used as an educational tool, the site has been able to disseminate information beyond its geographic borders. It integrates frequently asked questions about the care and display of historic costume and textiles and has developed a dictionary of costume used by individuals of different ages and disciplines. With the advent of digitally printed textiles, details of fabrics from garments are now progressively integrated within the site, which, although protected by copyright law, is not proprietary in nature.