The Department of Textile Conservation responds to the need for preservation, conservation, technical study, and research of the Museum's core collection of approximately 36,000 textiles from twelve curatorial departments. The department is responsible for setting guidelines for storage, care and handling, and display of this collection. Headed by Florica Zaharia, Conservator-in-Charge, fifteen professionals with diverse areas of expertise, as well as fellows, interns, and volunteers comprise the department.
The awareness of preservation and restoration of textiles began very early in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's history, integrated into work done by the Department of Objects Conservation. The Department of Textile Conservation became an independent entity in 1973, under the leadership of Nobuko Kajitani, Conservator-in-Charge, until her retirement in 2003.
The department's facilities evolved from an 800-square-foot room to the current 9,400-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which opened in 1995 after five years of planning and design work. During this planning period, the department was also assigned to assess the long-term preservation needs of the Museum's textile collection. This project provided an exceptional opportunity for conservators to review the existing conditions in the collection, to re-evaluate the storage format, to plan and design the new storage facilities, and to transfer and consolidate the textile collection from storage in individual curatorial departments into the Antonio Ratti Textile Center's new common storage facility. In addition, the existing textile-related database was processed and integrated into the Museum's collection management system. The Ratti Textile Center opened in 1995 under curatorial management and with its own staff. The conservators of the Department of Textile Conservation work closely with The Ratti Center's staff members to ensure the best preservation standards for the Museum's textiles. Together, the Department of Textile Conservation and the study and storage facilities of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center form a centralized facility for the Museum's comprehensive textile collection, representing textile history from the prehistoric to the present day.
The Department of Textile Conservation excels in the extensive practice of textile preservation and conservation treatments, in developing various methods of displaying textiles, and in the systematic study, documentation, and scientific investigation of textiles. These include, among others, tapestries, carpets, woven textiles, embroideries, costumes, and three-dimensional accessories of European, Islamic, Asian, and American origin. The Department is constantly building and steadily refining, as research advances, a collection-related comprehensive database. The latest analytical equipment and methodology are used together with traditional methods for studying and researching the Museum collection and related textile materials and technology, and for developing advanced treatment and preservation methods.