The town of Aubusson, located in Creuse region, is a small medieval town recognized internationally for its unique history of tapestry production. In 2009, the craftsmanship of the tapestry of Aubusson was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Thanks to a joint venture by local and regional government, the project to create an international tapestry centre in Aubusson – dubbed the Cité internationale de la tapisserie – was realised less than 10 years after the UNESCO classification. The aim was to create a cultural centre to highlight the 600-year-old history of weaving in the city and the evolution of contemporary weaving craft.
The centre was looking for a partner capable of outfitting three repositories for different types of objects such as textile collections, graphic art, paintings and ceramics. Following the call for tender, Bruynzeel was selected as the supplier that provided the best value for money. “Bruynzeel’s bid proved to be the best of the offers we received, judged by the weighted selection criteria: technical value 30% and price 70%,” explained Stéphanie Coudert, the museum’s collections manager. Bruynzeel also offered the best option for preservation of the complete collection, through its offer of bespoke storage for a wide range of objects and materials.
The meticulous work of stocktaking
A vast cataloguing process had to be completed before the decant could take place, to record all 330 wall tapestries, 15,000 graphic works, and 4,000 objects to be moved. To begin, staff carefully checked the works in detail. Next, each item’s catalogue number was cross referenced against existing data held for the artworks, and uncatalogued items were assigned a unique reference.
Once this stage was completed, the artworks were dusted, photographed and packaged. They were finally dispatched to their specified destination among the 3 new repositories in the international tapestry centre according to the typology of the works in order to guarantee an optimal level of conservation. A positive change as they used to be stored in one single reserve, which reached saturation.
Tapestries more easily accessible in the repositories of the international tapestry centre
The enlarged repositories have greatly improved the conditions in which the tapestries are stored. Bruynzeel’s cantilever storage solution allows the storage of huge tapestries, measuring between 1.70m and 5.20m along their shortest edge. Cantilevers were tailor-made and distributed over eight different levels. The optimization of storage spaces now allows the storage of more than 480 tapestries.
Since the refurbishment of the building, the centre has benefited from the addition of a work room for the collections. This innovation allows conservation teams to access the tapestries, whether for scientific studies or for conservation of the works, on a daily basis. The organization of the reserves has improved working conditions for the conservators and collections managers. The tapestries are more easily manipulated and identifiable thanks to clear labels which describe the visual characteristics of the works.
Specialist tapestry storage
The preservation conditions for tapestries are very specific. They require a temperature of 20°C and a humidity of 50%, and very careful packaging. Coudert explains the conservation process: “To be preserved in the best possible conditions, the tapestries are packed onto cardboard tubes. Due to the high price of non-acid materials, we use a vapour barrier film to prevent acid transfer from the card onto the artworks. Packed in its film, the tube is then covered with Tyvek fabric. This setup allows us to store the tapestry on a roll without creasing or folding, and in the direction of the warp yarn. The rolled tapestry is covered in a second sheet of Tyvek film, and the complete roll is then threaded onto a smaller aluminum tube, which is placed on the cantilever shelving.” Thus tapestries enjoy optimal conservation conditions, significantly better than when they were stored on flat wooden shelves in the reserves of the old museum. Bruynzeel drawers complete the specialist tapestry storage, keeping smaller tapestries flat, while protecting them from light and dust.
Customized storage solutions
Bruynzeel has provided bespoke solutions to meet the technical challenges of the premises. “Several storage systems were designed by Bruynzeel according to the available heights and spaces, especially in the second store room. Storage systems in the warehousing areas are also made-to-measure, ” says Coudert. Bruynzeel’s picture racking solution was chosen for the storage of paintings and provide a large storage capacity. The graphic artworks and pictures are stored on bespoke shelving.
Finally, the collection of furniture and technical objects is stored on longspan shelving suitable for large objects. The combination of longspan and pallet racking guarantees safe and compact storage of the heaviest objects.
Today, the artworks management team are considering a grand “collections project” to standardize the preservation of public collections. As the collection capacity has tripled in size, they have been able to take accession of a huge collection of 22,000 graphic works. These include designs for tapestries, carpets and furniture elements, and originate from the historic Tabard and Braquenié tapestry workshops in Aubusson. The collections project will require studying the artworks in minute detail, which Madame Coudert describes as “the sound of artworks” in order to trace the thread of history and production secrets of each of them.
“The main advantages of Bruynzeel solutions are: better conservation of artworks, ease of access to artworks, optimization of conservation areas. Bruynzeel is storage with style.”
Madame Coudert, collection manager, Cité de la tapisserie