3.1. Reconsidering Concepts such as Luxury or Colonialism through Silk Museums
I tend to establish bonds of union based on elements that characterize us. However, identity is also shielded in what confronts the adversary, the “other”. When the elements that unite us are of historical character, we add a heritage component that ends up influencing the opinion about ourselves and about the group to which we feel united. Rethinking the factors that govern beliefs, such as religion, color, culture, territory or social class to which we belong, Anthony Appiah states that we can stay together without having a common religion or the illusion of a common past [17
]. Given that the trade routes that cross the territories between Asia and Europe come from an ancestral practice, linked to the roads that the territory itself traces, we must assume that the distances and inequalities between different countries and cultures also contain fusion ingredients that originate deep pairing. From this idea of mixing and amalgam, which would be what really identifies the different cultures that hybridize between Asia and Europe, we maintain a position of integration. This positioning allows one to overcome the concepts of colonialism, never ceasing to review and denounce the abuses of the metropolis over the dominated territories. In any case, the truth is that silk, as a clothing material, has always been related to the concept of luxury; therefore, museums that deal with issues related to silk must address this issue. The splendid architectures and decorative furniture fit in silk museums with the concept of luxury that defines the textile material itself.
One way to start shared experiences between different countries is to analyze the common elements shared by distant regions, something that can be verified in historical research [18
], in the works on economic history, in stylistic analyses [19
], in contemporary artistic creation [20
] and of course in educational inquiries of an aesthetic nature [21
]. The exhibition “Silk Museums” was inaugurated on 31 October 2018 as an activity linked to the conference. This is a sample that has numerous panels in which a tour of silk museums from different countries is presented. From the Canary Islands to Japan, we detected the vitality of the Silk Road concept, an expression coined by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877. The importance of silk heritage is reflected in the museums created in all places along the East and West. The exhibition offers an overview of the museums specialized in silk, highlighting their typologies, explaining the architectural spaces, interpreting the machinery and tools for silk making, praising the recovery of heritage through fabrics and clothing, applauding the effort to transmit the traditions from education or analyzing the value of historical, artistic, political and economic ecosystems. The development of commercial and cultural exchanges is still alive with the Silk Road promoted by UNESCO. Museums, as cultural and educational institutions, reinforce the spirit of dialogue, collaboration and cultural transmission [22
To organize an adequate structure of the complex, we present a scheme linked to the different types of museums, which means favoring environments for specific models of audiences, taking into account the geographies and interests of each institution, always taking into account their peculiarities. In that sense, we present an organization chart based on typologies, areas of action or structural preferences of each museum:
Museums that reinforce its past, claiming history and architectural elements.
Museums that meet the strategic needs of the territory, both socially and environmentally, as well as tourism and economic.
Museums presenting samples of traditional technologies of silk production.
Museums or stations more linked to the study of silkworm breeding, the treatment of cocoons and mulberry plantations, scientific laboratories of nature.
Museums where the role of clothing predominates.
Museums that enhance educational activity and pedagogical actions.
Spectacular museums that represent powerful institutions.
From one island in the west to another island in the east, we establish a museum route between Europe and Asia that crosses the traditional territories of the Silk Road. The geographical route through these museums offers us a wide-enough panorama to be able to attend the different characteristics and peculiarities. The culture of dialogue has been reinforced, thus encouraging different audiences to have new offers offered by the cultural tourism of silk.
3.3. “Estación Sericícola” (Murcia, Spain)
Silk production was one of the bases of the economy of the Murcia region since the 16th century. Around 1850, the “pebrine” epidemic caused the ruin of the activity. It was able to recover by founding the Estación Sericícola de Murcia (ESM) in 1892, whose mission was to develop, import and transmit silk technology to increase productivity. In 1976, it became the IMIDA agricultural research centre. The activity of the ESM over 80 years generated a rich heritage of machinery, instruments and documentation. In 2006, IMIDA began a line of research consisting of the development of silk as a biomaterial in the field of regenerative medicine, specializing in the biotechnology of silk and its new uses in biomedicine. At the Estación Sericícola de Murcia (Figure 2
), silkworm breeding workshops are carried out, and silk is processed for the manufacture of biomaterials.
José Luis Cenis, a researcher at IMIDA, explains that among the scientific contributions of the Estación Sericícola de Murcia: “the work with silkworm larvae stands out, from which a material is obtained whose properties allow blood glucose levels to be reduced, thus improving the perspectives of those suffering from diabetes or other associated metabolic symptoms”. The possibility of using silk proteins as an active component in the manufacture of cosmetics is also being investigated. The biocompatibility of silk also allows us to think about the manufacture of new tissues that are more respectful of human skin and also much more durable. The advances in biology and medical treatments that silk can provide and everything related to the world of silk are currently the subject of scientific research, and this can substantially modify the idea that we have about the possibilities of silk, beyond the luxury and ostentation of the power they may suppose. These advances also allow us to review the educational possibilities of the silk museums themselves.
3.4. Maison Rouge/Musée des Vallées Cévenoles (Saint Jean du Gard, France)
The Musée du Tissage et de la Soierie de Bussières (France) combines spinning and contemporary mill. It was created in 1977 to safeguard and transmit textile heritage. The old Braud factory was renovated in 1988 to present a unique collection, with machinery in operation. A dozen looms show visitors the evolution of Lyon’s silk from 1800 to the present. The museum values local companies, with temporary exhibitions and events throughout the year. Visitors discover the story about the fabrics told by ancient weavers. The visit reveals the secrets of Jacquard’s mechanics.
Also in France, the unique heritage context of Maison Rouge is an ideal scenario to evoke silk as the main theme of identity. The museum allows to structure the territory and offers keys to understand the region. The rhythmic museology successively proposes libraries and cabinets of curiosities, beautiful richly composed showcases, with decorations and objects arranged in the furniture (Figure 3
). The Tea Room, a small stone-clad brick building, was designed in 1850 to receive guests in an exotic environment reminiscent of the Far East and the origins of silk, thus establishing a creative specular game of looks [25
]. Maison Rouge is listed in the Inventory of Historic Monuments in France.
For Sophie Desrosiers, specialist in the history of the fabrics of l’École d’Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales de Paris, there is a recent factor that provides an interesting clue to understand the resurgence of silk museums in certain regions: the movement to renew the silk production in Cévennes. This movement to revive sericulture was promoted in the late 1940s by the Alès station and especially by its director André Schenk. In the 1980s, the Association for the Development of Sericulture in Cévennes (ADSC) resorted to the “Chemins de la Soie” project that advocated contemporary strategies from an integral vision of the past. This project coincides with that of the European silk route initiated by the Council of Europe from 1988.
Another French example is the Musée de la Soie de Saint Hippolyte du Fort, created in 1984 to preserve, improve and transmit the Cevennes sericicultural heritage. It presents all the stages of silk thread transformation, from the silkworm to the fabric. The visitor discovers every step of the “Bombyx Mori”, from the caterpillar to the cocoon. Seed boxes, incubators, baskets for harvesting mulberry leaves, worm selection and hygrometry tools and all material for the breeding of worms are shown. Pasteur’s work on pebrine, the silkworm disease, is also shown.
To finish our French tour, we visit the Taulignan Silk Museum, created in 1985 by a descendant of a family of silk millers, who decides to place it in an old spinning mill and silk mills. As a city of medieval origin in the 19th century, Taulignan was prosperous thanks to the silk industry. In 1862, with 20 factories, it became the first miller municipality in the Drôme area. The museum traces the evolution of silk work with old machines by presenting the different stages: the breeding of silkworms, the extraction of thread, the twisting of the thread and finally the weaving process.
3.5. Macclesfield Silk Museum (United Kingdom)
The Macclesfield Silk Museum (United Kingdom) is located in the building of the School of Art built in 1879. Its original objective was to train designers to manufacture silk. Its initial visitors include the artist, designer, poet, novelist and social activist William Morris, who arrived in Macclesfield to learn more about the natural dyes of local silk maker Thomas Wardle, who struggled to renew the silk industry in India. The museum’s collection includes archival material and a wide variety of textiles inspired by India. The museum reveals the properties of silk, how it is woven, printed and colored (Figure 4
). Highlights include the 18th century silk buttons that were the beginning of Macclesfield’s silk history, the silk maps, the parachutes that helped win World War II and the loom used to make the famous silk photographs of Brocklehurst Whiston. This is a clear example that calls into question the alleged contradiction between historical memory and digital technology, managing aesthetic elements from the industrial side.
In Sweden, the K. A. Almgren Sidenväveri and Museum of Stockholm is dedicated to Knut August Almgren, who was 16 years old when he entered in 1822 to work for Mazer & Co., at that time the largest silk maker in Stockholm. He contracted tuberculosis, but after regaining health in Montpellier, he spent time in Lyon as an apprentice. Almgren acquired the necessary skills and managed to bring some Jacquard mechanics to Sweden. Klas Nyberg, director of the museum, tells us that silk weaving was an exception to guild law in Sweden, which only gave men the opportunity to have an occupation. In the year 1846, in the Swedish silk factories the majority of female employees were women. The factory produced fashion silks, clergy coats, bow ties and umbrellas, as well as ribbons and scarves. During World War II, they were forced to use Swedish artificial silk, since it was not possible to import natural silk. For Klas Nyberg, the educational role of this museum is linked to the heritage work it plays in this country so far away from the traditional silk routes [26
3.7. Setificio Piamontese Museum or Filatoio di Caraglio (Italy)
The Italian Museo del Setificio Piemontese o Filatoio di Caraglio is the oldest silk factory in Europe. Built between 1676 and 1678 by Giovanni Gerolamo Galleani, it is a true silk factory that operated until the 1930s, where traditional spinning and industrial spinning mills were integrated.
Filatoio di Caraglio represents the first example of industrialization of a production process, long before the Industrial Revolution (Figure 6
). In the 1990s, the Council of Europe defined the Filatoio as the most important historical–cultural monument of industrial archeology in Piedmont. The Twist Room houses the reconstruction of the imposing hydraulic silk torsion machines, technology used in the torsion phase of the famous Piedmontese “organzino” (Figure 7
). According to Laura Vietto, responsible for the Fondazione Filatoio Rosso, since 2015, the areas of attention and intervention of the museum have been focused on the promotion of cultural and educational activity, with exhibitions of contemporary art and with themed visits for specific audiences.
Another important Italian silk museum is the Civico Museo della Seta Abegg, located in an 18th century Italian country house with a mulberry garden on the shores of Garlate Lake. The museum exhibits discoveries, inventions and machines that have served in history to process silk. The tour concludes with a section dedicated to the future, where new research and applications of silk are presented in the biomedical field, in cosmetics and in the production of new threads. In addition to conserving heritage, the museum offers conferences, seminars, meetings, exhibitions, concerts and shows for the community.
3.10. China National Silk Museum (Hangzou, Chinad)
The National Silk Museum of China, near the West Lake in Hangzhou, is one of the first state museums in this immense country. It has a total area of 42,000 square meters, of which half correspond to the built area, and the rest are gardens and lakes (Figure 10
). Inaugurated in 1992, it has made remarkable progress thanks to the joint effort of all the staff, obtaining important collections, assembling national and international thematic exhibitions, protecting the textile heritage and, through of all this, joining sericulture and silk production (Figure 11
). Important educational programs in silk sciences are being carried out and the silk culture is being promoted, focusing attention on school audiences and young people.
The Korean Silk Museum (Cheongwon-gun, South Korea) offers an interesting look at Korean sericulture, with special emphasis on the educational and childcare. During the Korean invasions of Hideyoshi, the Battle of Chongju took place in Cheongju, in which Korean forces took the city back to the Japanese army. The opening of the Chungbuk line in 1926 caused the boom and regional development. Evidence of international exchange with the numerous foreign cultures that reached Korea through the oasis routes of the desert area of Central Asia, the steppes of the southern Siberi, and the silk sea routes are found. Due to the strategic nature of the territory in which it is installed, this museum constitutes an important axis of historical revision, which gives it a fundamental role in matters related to national identity.
In 1909, Japan became the world’s largest exporter of raw silk. The silkworm industry in Japan had a decisive influence on the country’s economy and contributed greatly to modernization. To commemorate the centenary of the inauguration of the Port of Yokohama, in March 1959, the city and the companies and industries involved opened the Silk Center International Trade and Sightseeing Building in the space of the British firm Jardine Matheson & Co. The Yokohama Silk Museum explains the history of the different silk industries of Japan, facilitating a better understanding of the subject through science and technology. The museum preserves valuable materials and makes them available to the public, encouraging the demand for silk and contributing to the promotion of international tourism.
3.11. Valencia Silk Museum (Spain)
We focused on the most recent creation of a museum. The tradition of the silk fabrication and commerce in Valencia was born more than five hundred years ago. This accumulated heritage was created in the splendid moment of medieval Valencia, in the origins of the Valencian preponderance in the Mediterranean, in a plural scenario where diverse cultures and religions were shared. In medieval Valencia, the corporate spirit that made the birth of the Silk College, later ratified by royal ordinances such as Silk College of Art, emerged strongly. The patrimonial burden characterizes this important institution which is history, present, and future. One has to make the tradition visible, while taking into account the need to innovate. Innovation is the result of respect and memory.
The historical building has undergone a recent transformation brought about by the efforts of its leaders, with the support of the Hortensia Herrero Foundation. This architectural intervention and recovery of the impressive amount of decorative and artistic elements (especially ceramic flooring and wall paintings) has placed it as a nerve center of urban recovery. It is a historical and cultural reference of great importance for the city. The decisions taken here have important repercussions on the local scene, but also on a global level, since Valencia was the world capital of the silk trade in the fifteenth century.
We value the possibility of considering it as an authentic house-museum. The Guild space is an environment inhabited by its owners for more than five centuries. The meetings of the representatives of the families of Valencian silk manufacturers have inhabited this house for centuries, and it continues to be their home. Within this architectural space, the memory of the different material and immaterial testimonies present in their vestiges, also in their current use, is still alive. Vicente Enguídanos, a “velluter” (silk worker) that still maintains the ancestral tradition of silk manufacturing, is proof of what we are defending. The concept of house-museum is reinforced as it is a guild house converted into a museum, which maintains the spirit of ancestral generations belonging to the community of Valencian silk manufacturers and merchants.
An act of 1477 is the oldest document that includes the foundation of the brotherhood of San Jerónimo. The municipal authorities ratified its foundation in 1479 [27
]. The Silk College of Art, heir to the medieval guild of the “velluters”, owns the building that is now a museum. Due to its status as a private entity, public institutions never opted to invest in this project. Since its opening in 2016, Valencia has been a place to learn about the history of silk making, an occupation that marked the future of the city until it became an indispensable part of its culture [28
The Silk Museum of Valencia has four different spaces.
The permanent exhibition, where there is a tour through the history of silk.
The archive, with documentary funds of the College, which make up the most extensive and oldest guild documentary record in Europe.
The noble floor of the guild house, which preserves a large set of Valencian Baroque tiles, a Gothic spiral staircase and paintings by José Vergara.
The workshops, which have old textile machinery where the process of the artisanal weaving of the Valencian spur is shown.
It has an attractive store space, as well as a restaurant that has a terrace in the place where the garden was located. Its rooms host temporary exhibitions with silk as a common thread, with very pending themes of the territorial and historical reality of the closest heritage (Figure 12
). The headquarters of the museum are a prominent building, located in the historical area of the city center. Very close to the museum, we find the lavish building of La Lonja
, an emblem of the Mediterranean civil Gothic, as well as the framework of what was a huge neighborhood of manufacturers of silk fabrics.
The protagonists of the history of silk in Valencia were workers and merchants, women and men, children and the elderly, slaves, servants, teachers and apprentices, officers and families who dedicated their lives to a variety of artisanal activities between agriculture and market. A part of that community was organized in corporations and brotherhoods of trades since the end of the 15th century. Thanks to historical research, these anonymous people have a voice today, and their material and immaterial legacy is valued in this museum. Museum is an educational space of excellence that identifies the objects and elements that characterize society in the same place where they worked centuries ago. The fact of it being called “college” appeals to its condition as a place to teach, since the silk trade was learned here and it is where the titles were delivered to be able to practice as a silk teacher.
The Archive of the Silk Art College is one of the most important trade union funds in Europe. It consists of 48 scrolls, 660 books and 97 boxes of documents whose antiquity date back to the 15th century. It keeps records of income and expenses of the corporation and its brotherhood on a continuous basis from 1479 to the 19th century with lists of registered teachers, officers and apprentices, meeting minutes, names of the clavarios
of each period, entry of foreign workers, parties, charities, graves, census, works and inventories, in addition to the privilege of King Ferdinand II of Aragon of the year 1479 [29
]. Since it opened in 2016, the museum has promoted and developed activities such as exhibitions, conferences, seminars, congresses, institutional receptions, book publishing, audiovisual production and specialized merchandising [30
The Historical Archive of the Silk Museum is a heritage jewel. There are numerous silk museums in different cities and countries of the world, but none of them have the particularity that characterizes that of Valencia, its Historical Archive. One of the most important works that the preservation of the manuscripts has required is the construction of an airtight vault, in which all these documents maintain an adequate temperature and humidity for their better conservation [31
]. Scientific research, especially from the humanities, is being carried out to better understand the history of this institution and is based on the importance that silk had as an industry and international trade in both the 15th [32
] and 18th centuries [33
We propose for the Silk Museum a museological context based on three geographical areas (local, regional and global), thus promoting a way to address various actions that should take into account the particular characteristics of the public, the ages of those who visit the museum, the visits of public school, the massive presence of tourists, and the pull of the Fallas creative and popular expression. As it is a first-class tourist event, recognized as Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the Fallas festival offers a splendid showcase in which the fabric of special dresses, an element that fits with Valencian silk tradition. The Silk Museum of Valencia becomes a cultural, commercial, economic, educational and tourist center (Figure 13