‘No, Mum, not a museum!’ Yes, many of us have heard that sad and somewhat panic-stricken refrain from youngsters who are dreading the prospect of another 3-hour amble around galleries hung with dark oil paintings or museums stuffed full of glass cases displaying old clothes. What the juvenile members of the group are expressing is the sense that these emporiums of education for the high-minded are not relevant …and are not fun! (Well, not for a few years, anyway.) They want to see moving parts and lots of colour.
But there is a museum that will enthral and excite everyone. It’s TextielMuseum – The Textile Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. It’s far from a conventional museum of lots of dust and not enough action. This is a beautiful former textile factory which tells the story of cloth and weaving in a fashion which will be appealing to every visitor, whatever their age.
The Textile Museum in Tilburg is one of the few Dutch working museums. The renovation of the historic textile factory that houses the museum has created a space which retains so much of its original industrial charm but it also displays modern fabric-making techniques, groundbreaking technology and the essential café and shop; and all in this former damask-weaving mill.
Textile has played an important part in the history of Tilburg, and you can learn all about it at the museum. The industrialization of the Netherlands greatly affected the world of textile production here, which developed from just a small cottage industry with hand-weaving looms. This industry evolved to those large factories with hundreds of steam-driven machines able to do the work of many home-workers in a fraction of the time and with more predictable quality.
Works of fabric art
The Textile Museum uses every medium to transport the visitor back to the Dutch textile industry from around 1860 and then on to modern times. There are beautiful lengths of cloth, works of fabric art and associated objects from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. One can see the punched card ‘software’ and looms that used this first ‘computerised’ system; they work in the same way as Victorian Pianola pianos which could play by themselves!
In the TextielLab, visitors can enjoy the unique experience of watching designers, artists and architects at work. They will likely be using the modern machines in the factory to create art as well as clothes, and all with texture, colour and imagination. One might find some textiles with Marilyn Monroe laser-cut to create a fabric portrait. Sewing machines produce intricate designs which might later be seen on the streets around The Netherlands, decorating flags, caps and bandannas.
There are free daily mini-tours to enhance the museum experience. Guides will take you for a journey through the most important aspects of the TextielMuseum and TextielLab and will pass on their own expertise. In groups of a maximum of 15 people there will be plenty of chance to ask questions. The shop will be the final stop and that’s where one can find some gorgeous mementoes of an outstanding museum.
Daily (Tuesday till Sunday); duration of the tour: 30 minutes, starting at 13:00/14:00/15:00 – registration at the entrance desk.
5046 GN Tilburg
Telephone: +31 (0)13 536 74 75 (Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 to 17.00)
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018