The Instituto Cervantes in Lyon is pleased to invite you to the opening of this exhibition on silk and its history in Europe, which is part of the Silknow project, on 7 June at 5.30 pm.
The exhibition Avec notre passé, tissons notre avenir (With our past, we weave our future) – which will remain open from 7 June to 30 September 2021 – will show how, thanks to the immigration of important Italian silk craftsmen since the 13th century, Lyon was for centuries a silk-making centre in Europe and became, in the 18th century (the golden age of European silk) the most important city in the design, production and innovation of the silk textile industry, and how, in turn, it exported its know-how to other European towns, especially Valencia in Spain, which later became a major centre of production.
Access to cultural heritage is recognised as a basic human right. Its enjoyment and recognition by the community makes them become its custodians, valuing it as worthy of protection. Despite textiles -and especially silk- play a key role within the history and current life of so many European communities, it is insufficiently recognised as an important kind of cultural heritage, of both tangible and intangible nature. Moreover, its conservation is a very complicated task, given its own physical fragility, and its dispersion in many small institutions.
On the other hand, the digital challenges faced by museums vary greatly, depending on their size, financial and human resources, etc. Small and medium size museums have little access to digital tools and repositories that can allow them to share their data beyond their own walls and websites.
Digital open access and data management is therefore one of the major challenges facing museums. Indeed, a large number of culturally significant historical artefacts have been digitized and made available online. This means that experts in cultural heritage, and often the general public, now have the ability to search for and access information about artifacts instantaneously, even when these are stored in distant parts of the world. However, each institution has its own cataloguing practices, that sometimes change, even within the very same museum. The resulting information can therefore vary greatly. The inherent heterogeneity of these data results in the creation of silos, incompatible with each other, and therefore mutually incomprehensible. Data heterogeneity is further increased by the multiplicity of languages used. This makes the discovery of these data even more difficult, as it requires users to master various languages and very different information management systems, as well as explicit or implicit data models. To begin to overcome these issues, museums need to talk to each other, as they are the first to suffer these problems. SILKNOW provided three workshops as a forum to share, debate and propose best practices that should help many museums that share the same situations.
The resulting guidelines are quite broad, since the extreme heterogeneity of collections, institutions and contexts makes it very difficult to provide more specific advice. However, we are sure that this first step is already a valuable contribution for a number of goals, such as the consolidation of museums in the digital arena, through a widespread adoption of digital open-access policies; the support and training to museum professionals tasked with its cataloguing and dissemination; the recognition of textile heritage, its value and complexities; and the need for its increased protection. National plans or international charters should play an instrumental role in this regard.
On 9th April 2021, we visited Algemesí, a city near València (Spain), where we attended the reopening (after months of restrictions due to COVID-19, a new exhibition) of the local museum “Museu València de la Festa“, dedicated to the local festivity in honor of the Virgin Mary, registered in the list of Intangible World Heritage.
In this occasion, a new temporal exhibition of traditional & contemporary silk textiles and attire was the attraction of the opening.
The exhibition, named “#SILK. From #fiber to #textile (1890-1990), has been curated by Guillem Bernat Alventosa Talamantes, a particular collector who is exhibiting his own contemporary collection of haute couture with other traditional dresses. Silk is the “guiding threat” along all the pieces exhibited, which are divided into two sections, one for the traditional and local garments and secondly, other which gathers the contemporary & high fashion designs made by acclaimed fashion designers.
The College of High Silk Art is one of the most prominent buildings of Valencian architecture and culture. It is located in a special area in the historical heart of the city of Valencia: Velluters’ (velvet artisans) neighborhood.
With the transformation, restoration and renovation of the building (it dates from the 15th century) in the last years, driven by Hortensia Herrero Foundation, a piece of material and immaterial history of the city has been recovered, as the guild of silk weavers was reference in the world and one of the engines of the Valencian economy. The archive of the College of High Silk Art is the most important in Europe and maintains a large number of copies from its inception to the present in scrolls, books and file boxes.
We met with some of the Board Governors from the nowadays Velluters’ Guild, building contacts and partnerships. First we presented our project and the updated results, as our Thesaurus, ADASilk and the Virtual Loom, tools which we offered to being used in their museography as much as the could be useful. We also encouraged the Board members to add their digitalized records to the huge database SILKNOW project is building in collaboration with Mueums, institutions, etc.
But, our main and central discussion was about the shared worries on the future perspectives of silk weaving tradition, threatened by multiple circumstances and challenges. In this moment, local artisans are suffering the consequences of the world pandemics of COVID-19, as the festivities and celebrations are not taking place, and most of their textile production is focused on folklore dresses. The transmission and legacy of the weaving techniques knowledge and textile craft was another key point of our meeting, as there are no ways to coach new artisans and professionals in the traditional techniques, there are not any educational plans or programs which include weaving tuitions.
Because all of these, we agreed in continuing working together, along with the creative industries in order to build a new plan on silk preservation, which would be send to the Spanish Government, to emphasize the need of concrete and useful measures, taking steps in the safeguarding of this traditional craft.