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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Dr Mary Brooks

Brooks, Mary M. (2016). ‘Mouldering Chairs and Faded Tapestry Unworthy of the Observation of a Common Person’ Considering Textiles in Historic Interiors. Textile History 47(1): 63-85.

Author(s) from Durham


Textiles occupy a paradoxical position in historic house interiors. Once one of the most significant elements in many decorative schemes, they have slipped down the hierarchy of decorative art objects, partly because of modern perceptions of textiles, partly because of their dual aesthetic and functional roles and partly because, if not properly cared for, they become faded, dingy, holey, unstable, ‘unworthy’ echoes of their former selves. This article examines the impact that degradation has on textiles and how they are perceived, focusing on colour, surface, texture, lustre and completeness, previous interventions and conservation strategies. It explores changing attitudes to visible degradation — fading, losses, holes, alterations, repairs — and considers how curators and conservators may engage with these complex changes and their implications when planning interpretative and interventive strategies in historic interiors. It considers how recent developments in conservation theory and practice can contribute to this ongoing challenge for display and interpretation.