Textile conservation 

Te Papa’s Textile Conservation team is responsible for the conservation of the Museum's collection of approximately 15, 000 textiles. The term 'textile' generally means a woven fabric.  But it is also used more broadly to include a range of items that are not necessarily woven, but are made from natural and artificial fibres, such as twined kākahu (cloaks) or felted tapa (bark cloth).

In Te Papa, textiles are held in the Matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge), Pacific, and History collections.  They are exhibited at Te Papa and also may tour to other museums and galleries within New Zealand or internationally.

What is conservation?

Conservation is the process of stabilising, slowing and preventing damage. Conservation often requires accepting the presence of stains, fading, areas of loss, and other imperfections. It is a different process from restoration, which aims to restore an item to its original state.  Preventive measures such as proper storage and display conditions are important for keeping textiles in good condition.

The primary goal of textile conservation treatment is usually physical stabilisation to enable safe display.  Aesthetic aspects are also important, so that the appearance of damage does not detract from appreciation of the object.

The role of textile conservators

The museum conservator's main role is to assess an object to decide what conservation treatment it needs for long-term stability, whether it can be exhibited safely, and if so, what treatment is required prior to exhibition.

Read more about the role of the conservator

Treatment case studies

See how we treated 3 very different types of material:

How to care for your textiles

How to care for your textiles

This page describes particular risks of damage to a range of objects described as textiles, and explains how to care for them to lessen the risk of damage.
Caring for your textiles