CHAT - Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile, Hong Kong

3 July 2020

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By nature, textile museums and institutions offer its visitors tactile experience beyond the visual. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, this core practice is challenged and textile institutions are subsequently called to reconfigure its exhibitions and programmes for remote access. Against the backdrop of the current pandemic and ongoing social distancing across the world, CHAT has spearheaded an international partnership project in May 2020 to unite 5 textile institutions to conceive and present online events and exhibitions and exchange ideas, methodologies and skills beyond geographical limit. The 5 institutions include Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź, Poland; CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile) in Hong Kong; Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, USA; Lottozero in Prato, Italy; and TextielMuseum in Tilburg, Netherlands.

Historically and traditionally speaking, textile making is a communal activity as well as collaborative work, involving different skillsets and sources of knowledge from a varied group of labourers, craftspeople and more. Paying homage to the cooperative nature of textile practices as well as the application of new technologies, the 5 institutions will take advantage of contemporary digital technologies to launch a new initiative for the sharing of knowledge, content, resources and skills that offers a fresh textile lens for wider audiences to enjoy art and design. More importantly, this initiative introduces a new chapter in curatorship and programme direction for textile institutions today, that which lays aside institutional rivalry to embrace a new form of sustainability, one that not only conserves natural resources but also cultural and creative resources by sharing unique content, collection objects and even manpower.

From May 2020 onwards, the 5 institutions will regularly host online meetings to launch exciting programmes including online talks, collection battles, workshops and learning programme exchanges. In early 2021, a virtual exhibition consisting of objects, learning and workshop programmes from the 5 institutions will officially launch online.

While small and medium scale museums and art centres may not have the resources that well-established institutions have to weather the current global crisis, but CHAT believes that there is strength in partnership and collaborations. These uncertain times have called for arts and cultural institutions to be reactive and flexible, working collectively and being proactive in preparing for future scenarios and contingencies.

With these initiatives, both ‘public’ and ‘private’ textile institutions will overcome boundaries, both geographical and institutional, and forge a new way of institutional collaboration among small and medium scale museums and artcentres to become more inclusive, sustainable, efficient, and at the same time, dynamic and powerful.

Links to the institution website as relevant support material: