Silk was a major factor for progress in Europe, mostly along the Western Silk Road’s network of production and market centres. Silk trade also allowed for the exchange of ideas and innovations. Punched cards were first used in Jacquard silk looms, long before modern computers were even imagined. Today, too, fashion and high-end textile industries have a huge impact on the EU, reaching €525 billion in annual turnover. Nowadays, however, silk textiles have become a seriously endangered heritage. One reason lies in its very physical nature, more fragile than other, more conventional cultural assets (painting, architecture, sculpture, etc.). Although many European specialized institutions are in operation, they usually are small or medium in size, and lack resources to develop state-of-the-art digital resources. Additionally, intangible heritage such as the old weaving techniques is in danger of disappearing with the imminent closure of the very few companies that still make use of these ancient machines. Nonetheless, their holdings remain relevant for audiences that experience vivid, personal and social connections to this heritage, linked to so many life stories and collective narratives.
These heritage institutions have been producing large amounts of digital data: poorly tagged, variously formatted, in different languages, of random quality and usually inaccessible for the broader public. New methods and tools are required to automatically extract meaning (semantics) from these huge and heterogeneous digital databases (big data) and to establish connections among them in order to preserve this fragile cultural heritage (tangible: textiles; intangible: weaving techniques), allowing its re-use for the future generations. Additionally, new ways of access to these data are required to make them more meaningful for prospective end-users. ICT provides researchers with powerful tools in order to preserve, analyze and exploit digital information.
This Special Issue invites papers and reviews dealing with silk heritage, silk history, silk diplomatic relations, silk living heritage, silk design, silk heritage preservation strategies, data visualization, 3D fabrics, vocabularies, thesauri, metadata schemas, and ontologies, fashion and tradition within silk heritage, looms and the potential offered by the ICT in the textile heritage sector, and creative industries and innovation applied to silk heritage. Papers going beyond the state-of-the-art are encouraged. Case studies using modern analytical techniques and new methodological approaches which contribute to the domain of safeguard and textile heritage protection will be considered.