The collection of finds now shown in the Historical and Didactic Museum of Tapestry began in 1946, fostered by Vittorio Zironi Esq. from Bologna. It was born from the initiative of a few keen admirers and expert craftsmen as a no-profit organization with the aim to build, organize, develop and manage a Historial and Didactic Museum of Tapestry to be opened in Bologna. On November 6th, 1966 the first Museum premises were officially inaugurated by the Hon. Elkan in Via Barberia. However, as the museum patrimony grew, the need for more spaces for the exposition of the materials was felt and it was decided to move the collection to the present premises in Villa Spada, that had been in the meantime thoroughly restored and that was a Municipality property since 1964. The Museum represents an artistic heritage of rare importance. Even if it had once been reductively included in the field of minor arts, this Museum has widely contributed to the awakening of study and research on the fabric sector and to highlighting the importance of this artistic activity and of the ones connected to it.
The fundamental aspect of the Museum, apart from being an exposition space with didactic aims, is also to become a breeding ground for proposals, study and analyses of crafts in general and of weaving and tapestry in particular.
Today the Museum hosts over 6,000 finds. The exibition is made up by Italian fabrics, Middle and Far East and extra-European fabrics in general. Laces, needlepoints, embroideries, vestments, fringes and ribbons and moreover upholsterers’ tools and accessories (sewing machines, cast upholsterer’s nails...) are exibited on the three floors of the Villa. On the ground floor there is an interesting collection of stamps about textile art issued by all countries.
The adjoining library (and photo library) keeps a vast patrimony of books about weaving from all over the world. Noteworthy is also the collection of painted papier-maché friezes that were used to decorate those churches that were less endowned with decorations and frescoes during XVIII century celebrations and up to the first half of the XX century. Sadly, today this artistic form is being lost, both because very few people can now make these decorations and because the custom has been neglected. In the Villa there is also a Restoration Centre for Antique Fabrics, endowned with up-to-date devices and tools, where tapestries, fabrics in general, wall hangings, carpets etc. are restored. Along with studies and cataloguing, the laboratory restorates works owned by Bodies and private citizens, besides rearranging the Tapestry Museum Collection.
Among the particularly valuable pieces we can mention the following ones:
the cope that Pope John XXIII wore when he was Apostolic Delegate in Paris; a lampas in silk and silver dating back to the Thirties, with hem and appliques embroidered in gold; chasuble, stole and maniple of the XVII century manufactured by Byzantine monks and also worn by Pope John XXIII on official celebrations during his stay in Constantinople. Another significant piece is a praying figure in linen and wool from pre-islamic Faim (VI century a.C.). Among the tapestries, besides Bolognese damasks we would like to mention a finely manufactured silk brocatelle that was used to cover sacred Christian images in Saint Sophia in Constantinople (1650) before the Christian temple was turned into a mosque (1650 a.C.). among the tapestry tools, an original loom can be admired, dating back to 1380 a.C. and used to manufacture stripes and cordons.
The following are also interesting: a VII century lampas from the golden altar of St. Ambrose in Milan; a large Lombardic loom belonging to the XVII century; the green moire baldachin of the St. Lucas Madonna dated 1870; 50 banners of the Arts Companies (those of goldsmiths, swordsmiths, tanners, cobblers, three arts, woodsmiths, hatters, blacksmiths, butchers, tailors, ropers, masons and shearers are worth mentioning); a collection of cast and chiselled upholsterer’s nails from 1400 to 1800; a noteworthy copt fabrics collection from the III to the VII century; Turkish fabrics, Aemilia Ars embroidery, a brocade silk Kaftan in pure gold dating back to the XVIII century; the measure, in iron, of the Bolognese arm (64 cm. long) used in the area until the beginning of the XX century.
Finally, a room is entirely dedicated to the most modern production that avails itself of the most advanced researches in the field of chemistry. Synthetic yarns demonstrate how designs by ancient manufacturers can be resumed and translated by the present mechanical proceedings with the same efficacy, thus contributing to a wider and wider diffusion of such a wonderful art