Textiles have been used in various human endeavors for thousands of years and have the potential to be highly symbolic and culturally important. This is especially true in the United States where even mundane textiles such as handkerchiefs and bandannas have held political and cultural significance (Collins, 1979). Due to this intimate link with historical events, items such as flags, campaign banners and bandannas, pennants, and other flat textiles stand a reasonable chance of being included in library, archive, or museum collections.
Ideally, a textile conservator should be consulted in the care and repair of a historic textile; however, this is not always immediately possible because of budgetary concerns or a lack of local or in-house specialists. In some cases, the cost of a conservator’s services may greatly exceed the monetary value of the piece (Finch and Putnam, 1985). When professional repair services are unavailable or impractical, preservation should be the focus as “the first and safest line of defense against all the causes and some of the effects of deterioration” (ibid. p. 9). To this end, this paper offers a brief overview of the structure, storage, and display of flat textiles for libraries,
archives, museums, and private collectors who may not have much experience in textile care and who lack immediate access to professional textile conservation.
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