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Why does the MuCEM have textiles in its collections?

It’s a little-known fact that the MuCEM’s textiles collection is enormous, containing more than 30,000 objects. Marina Zveguinzoff, Research and Collections Coordinator for the Body, Image and Sexuality Section, explains the interesting and rare items found in this part of the collections.

“The MuCEM’s textiles collection is immense. Of course, there are some rare pieces, but the word ‘moving’ would be the most appropriate.
It comprises three sub-collections:
- A collection from the former Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions encompasses regional French costumes, headgear and work clothes, as well as undergarments and household linens;
- Collections on loan from the Museum of Man which the MuCEM has been holding since 2005 (costumes from around Europe, particularly the Balkans);
- New acquisitions since the 2000s which have been more focused on the Mediterranean.
The oldest pieces date back to the 18th century. They are all the more extraordinary given the fragility of the fabric.

The conservation of books and papers is a known challenge, but textiles conservation is an equally delicate task of great interest, whose techniques are also very exciting.
Up until the 1970s, textiles were costly. Items in good condition were often reused to make a new garment or accessory. Nothing was left to waste. This is why there are so few fully intact original pieces. And the inside of clothing is often the most fanciful, with an assortment of small scraps of ‘rare and old’ fabric reclaimed and stitched together.”

Marina Zveguinzoff, Research and Collections Coordinator for the Body, Image and Sexuality Section