The Textile Museum of Prato: a special place

from Gaia Gualtieri - 13/11/2013

Gaia Gualtieri

The Textile Museum has always been one of my favorite places in town. It happens regularly that I got lost in it's rooms, oozing with the history of our city, Prato, where textiles have been produced for 800 years.

Our venue in the heart of the city

Since 2003, the headquarters of the Textile Museum, is located in the former Cimatoria Campolmi; a jewel of industrial archeology of the Nineteenth Century, within the walls of the Medieval city.

The history of this place is enough to shake the heart of any textile lover. The textile vocation of this site dates back to the Middle Ages. Historical records prior to 1326 attest the existence of a fulling mill (building for the fulling of cloth). The plant drew waters from one of the canals (gore) allowing - from the first half of the Thirteenth Century - the exploitation of the river Bisenzio for textile production.

500 years later, in March 1863, the modern history of this place began. And it was here that some accomplished entrepreneurs from Prato - Campolmi Vincenzo, Luigi Cecconi and David Alphandery - decided to give rise to their company: the Opificio idraulico Campolmi  (Hydraulic Mill Campolmi), which soon became a solid company, working in the textile finishing.

The company was founded for fabric cropping/shearing and later, it also introduced in its production cycles, all stages of textile finishing, such as fulling, dyeing, teasing and calendering (and this is the reason why it was considered a symbol of the real factory of the Pratese manufacturing history and for a long time it was called the "training ship" because many textile specialists and entrepreneurs learned here the secrets of the finishing process of the fabric...).

At the end of the Nineteenth Century, it  looked like a four-sided building on two levels, developed around a rectangular courtyard, with a large tank in the center for the collection of water and a brick chimney 40 meters high.

This enormous guardian is the real symbol of the Textile Museum. It has endured through the years,
and also to the Second World War, when it was bombarded. It is still there to watch over the museum and the city center

Our history and traditions (and for the people of Prato, in general) are a great legacy that have to be protected and enhanced. And for this reason, there could be no better venue for the Textile Museum.

I look at it, and I think although there are many obstacles to deal with every day, I can do it and we can do it.

The Textile Museum today

The Textile Museum of Prato is in indeed a cultural institution founded with the aim to promote the study, the enhancement and promotion of ancient and contemporary art and technical textile, in all its forms and expressions.

This may sound like the Textile Museum is a dusty and boring place, but that simply is not so. The great thing about this place is that it is friendly and it can "talk" to the people who are not experts of textile art at all. Everybody can enjoy exhibitions, events and workshops for adults and children and that is why it is always busy and sometimes noisy. It is a lived-in and interactive place.
I had confirmation of this several times because I love to take friends and clients for a visit there. Believe me, there is no DHG Textile Tour not including a guided tour of the Museum collections.
And – guess what? At the end, the most enthusiastic visitors are not our customers, but rather their children and wives /husbands because they can learn something new in a pleasant way.

Just to make your mouth water... the heritage of the Textile Museum consists of a very heterogeneous collection of artifacts of great international importance. The art of weaving is documented since the early Christian Era to the present day in many different techniques, for a total of approximately 6000 artifacts. There are Archaeological textiles, fabrics and vestments (from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century), textiles and hand-embroidered artifacts (from the Fifteenth to the Twentieth Century), fabrics and ethnic clothes (from India, Indonesia, Yemen, Central and South America, China, Japan...). There are also samples from Prato, sketches and artist’s fabrics, contemporary fabrics, garments and accessories (from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century), and fashion-plates and books.But there are also machineries: handlooms, winders, beating machines; tools for weaving preparation, such as spinning, winders, warping, of Italian manufacture which includes, the result of elaborations made on site for the production of Prato.

That’s all for now... I hope you have another good reason to visit us.

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