The Textile Conservation Centre

Smart and techno fabrics

Smart & Techno - Fabrics: Fundamental Properties of New Fibres & Their Future

This collaborative project was undertaken from 2002-2004 by the TCC (Principal Investigator Mary M. Brooks) and the V&A Museum to explore fundamental issues in the understanding of the long-term behaviour of innovative smart and techno-textiles with the goal of enhancing their interpretation by museum curators and developing a framework for their preservation by conservators for long term public access and benefit. It was intended to be a pilot project to enable the development of improved practice through enhanced knowledge and understanding.

The project evolved in two phases. Dr Capucine Korenberg was the project’s first Research Assistant. She undertook analytical research into a range of smart and techno-textiles including untreated and treated polyester (spattered and ‘shibori’ permanently pleated textiles), thermochromic coated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyester, treated silk, nettle fibre and polylactic acid fibre, a new fibre designed to be biodegradable. The resources of the Textile Conservation Centre, the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum and Imperial College were used for this analytical phase which used Fourier Transform Infrared Red Spectroscopy (FTIR), X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and mechanical testing to analyze the behavior of light and heat aged samples. Following Dr. Korenberg’s appointment as a Conservation Scientist in the British Museum, Dr. Leonidas Dokos was appointed with the brief of developing a framework for the conceptual and analytical categorisation of smart and techno-textiles, including nano, biodegradable, microfibres and electronic textiles, in a museum and conservation context.

Nuno, the Japanese firm renowned for its innovative textiles, generously provided samples for analysis.

The project was successful in bringing together the expertise of museum specialists, conservators, conservation scientists, material scientists and engineers to develop a body of knowledge about smart and techno-textiles. A genuine interdisciplinary network has been developed which will enable the development of future project proposals to further research in this new and complex area.

Analytical research indicated that the current preventive conservation regimes used for clean and unused polyester-based new and artificially aged smart and techno-textiles are appropriate. This analytical research provides a framework for characterisation of the long-term behaviour of more complex smart and techno-textiles and for the worn and soiled examples which are usually encountered by curators and conservators A conceptual framework for approaching museological, conservation and ethical issues presented by smart and techo-textiles was developed by Dr. Dokos. Dissemination to both a specialist and general audience has drawn attention to issues involved in the collection and preservation of these innovative textiles.

The results of this project have been, and continue to be, presented to researchers, curators, conservators, textile makers and the wider public in the UK, Europe and the America through lectures at the Textile Conservation Centre and the Victoria & Albert Museum, conference papers, reports and electronic media. These included:

Capucine Korenberg: Tackling the Conservation Issues Posed by Tomorrow's Fabrics Poster presented at: Fibrous Assemblies at the Design and Engineering Interface. INEDEC International Textile Design & Engineering Conference, Heriott Watt University, Edinburgh 21-23 September 2003

Capucine Korenberg: Polyester - a synthetic considered from many facets Presented by Dr. Brenda Keneghan, Victoria & Albert Museum Second Symposium on Restoring Synthetic Materials, Vitra Design Museum, Weil an Rhein, Germany, 26-27 November 2003

Leo Dokos, Mary M. Brooks & Capucine Korenberg: Smart & Techno Fabrics. The Effect of a Museum Environment on their Mechanical Properties.

Leo Dokos, Mary M. Brooks & Alan Chambers: Smart & Techno Fabrics. A Framework for Conservation Analysis and Decision Making. Eleventh International Conference on Composite/Nano Engineering. International Community for Composites Engineering (ICCE). South Carolina USA, 8-14 August 2004

Leo Dokos & Mary M.Brooks 2005. Smart and techno fabrics: fundamental properties of new fibres and their future. V&A Conservation Journal, 51, 12-13.