The Textile Conservation Centre

Successful outcomes of TCC tapestry research reported to the sector

A dissemination event took place on 10th February 2010 to mark the end of an inter-disciplinary tapestry monitoring research project undertaken by researchers at the Textile Conservation Centre and the University of Southampton’s School of Engineering Sciences.

The research was funded by a major grant (£386,000) over three years from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Frances Lennard, formerly of the TCC, was the Principal Investigator and Dr Dinah Eastop was also a member of the research team. Their Co-Investigators from the School of Engineering Sciences were Professor Janice Barton and Dr Alan Chambers.

The audience at the dissemination event included representatives of the University of Southampton and other higher education institutions, former TCC staff as well as industry partners such as the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces.

The project achieved its aims of developing two monitoring techniques for use on historic tapestries. The research demonstrated that the novel technology of polymer fibre sensors had promising applications for monitoring textiles while the technique of digital image correlation has been developed to the extent that it is a very useful tool which could be used to inform interventive and preventive treatments. The techniques were tested on woven tapestry samples in the laboratory, then on a newly woven tapestry and finally on a historic tapestry in-situ at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property. The work showed that it is possible to obtain strain measurements from tapestries and that it is possible to detect incipient damage before it is visible to the naked eye. The colourful strain maps produced by the digital image correlation software are a useful and highly visual tool for conservators and other custodians. The research also demonstrated the close relationship between strain and Relative Humidity.

An extended report on the outcomes that were reported can be found in the research section of this website.

The research team members are grateful to the Institute of Archaeology (University College London) for hosting the event.