This year’s International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) Meeting will take place October 7-12 at
the Congress Centre Kursaal Interlaken, in Switzerland. The theme of the congress is “Shaping
Sustainability in the Cotton Value Chain.” Over the next few weeks, the Rupp Report is focusing on
this event. This week, the spotlight is on the surroundings of Interlaken. To be more precise, the
report is about the Abegg Foundation, including its museum housing an extraordinary and unique
collection of antique textiles and art objects. The foundation was established by private
collectors Werner and Margaret Abegg, and it is not far from Interlaken.
Unique Collection Of Textiles And Art Objects
The Abegg Foundation’s collection comprises textiles and art objects from Europe, the Middle
East and regions along the Silk Road. Its world-famous collection of ancient textiles dates from
the fourth century B.C. up to the year 1800 C.E. Highlights include large wall hangings from
ancient Egypt, as well as European fabrics and liturgical vestments from the 12th to the 18th
century. Other centers of attention are collections of eighth- and ninth-century Central Asian
weavings as well as silk robes from the Liao Dynasty (907-1125) in China.
In addition to the Abegg family’s private collection, the museum houses both fine and
applied artworks. There are paintings from the workshop of Rogier van der Weyden and Sandro
Botticelli, wooden sculptures from the Middle Ages, gold objects, and ancient bronzes and ceramics
from the Near East.
A Permanent And A New Exhibition
These two areas are the basis of the permanent exhibition. The textile exhibits show their
historical and artistic context. Between August 2009 and September 2011, the museum premises were
completely updated, including a remodeling of the museum.
The Abegg Foundation is now presenting a special exhibition titled “Ornamenta — Textile
Images of the Middle Ages.” The exhibition is open daily from 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and closes
Nov. 11, 2012. Exhibits include beautiful tapestries, painted banners, altar hangings with subtle
embroidery and priests’ vestments, which together determined the appearance of church interiors
according to feast days and seasons. It is a breathtaking exhibition and array of textiles and fine
ancient art that should not be missed.
The Abegg Foundation was established in 1961 as a cultural historical institute that aims to
collect, research and restore old fabrics and textiles. The museum presents through every summer an
exhibition dedicated to a special sector of ancient textile art. The foundation also includes a
professional library — a cornerstone of its success and reputation. The library houses literature
covering ancient textiles as well as art in general, painting, architecture, history, archeology
and sculpture from ancient times up to the early 19th century. Interested parties may consult
current periodicals, the card catalogues and the online catalogue in the reading room. The
catalogues list some 60,000 entries and 200 current periodicals.
An extremely important task is conservation and restoration, with the main emphasis on
textiles. No doubt the Abegg Foundation is one of the most prestigious institutes for textile
conservation and restoration. Apart from its public areas, the foundation also educates students in
the art of conservation of old fabric and textile artifacts.
The foundation offers a five-year degree course to one student per year in cooperation with
the Swiss Conservation-Restoration Campus and the Bern University of Arts (BUA). The five students
choose their area of specialization at the beginning of their studies and receive individual
supervision by the head of the textile conservation workshop and the senior conservators.
An important part of the education is the three-year Bachelor’s program, which covers
preventive conservation, an introduction to specific textile topics and basic
conservation-restoration theory. Introductory modules in preventive conservation, humanities and
natural sciences, technology of artifacts and conservation are offered at the BUA. Abegg Foundation
internal and external docents teach specific modules in the specialization textiles.
The two-year Master’s program centered on textile conservation and restoration offers
practical and theoretical modules and is complemented by modules at the BUA. At the end of the
program, students submit a Master’s thesis covering practical and theoretical skills and including
some autonomous research related to a particular textile conservation and/or restoration project.
The course involves lectures at the BUA and practical projects in the Abegg Foundation’s
conservation workshop as well as self-study required for the theory modules. Students receive a
scholarship from the foundation to cover accommodation and living expenses and are expected to
contribute to current projects at the foundation.
In addition to documentation covering the current special exhibition, the foundation also
publishes scientific works on textile art. ICAC conference attendees who are interested in the
history of their industry should not miss a visit to the Abegg Foundation in its beautiful
September 25, 2012