Textile Museum, Prato, Italy

The Textile Museum (Italian: Museo del Tessuto) is located in Prato in via Puccetti 3 and is one of the most important at a national and European level on the history and development of weaving from antiquity to the present day.

The Textile Museum is the largest cultural centre in Italy dedicated to the promotion of historical and contemporary textile production and art. The Museum represents the historical memory and the cultural interface of the Prato district, which has been identified with textile production since the Middle Ages. Today the district boasts over 7,000 companies operating in this sector.

The first nucleus of the museum was established in 1975 thanks to the donation of a corpus of 14th – 19th century fabrics by the private collector Loriano Bertini to the Industrial Technical Institute “Tullio Buzzi”, a school for the training of chemical, textile and mechanical experts.

The school hosted the collections until 1997 when the new headquarters in Piazza del Comune was inaugurated where the museum ran until April 2003. Since 1975 the textile collections, thanks to the acquisitions of the alumni association of the textile institute, have grown to reach the current patrimony which today is of absolute importance on an international level.

The art of textile processing is documented from the paleochristian era up to the present day in the various execution techniques, for a total of about six thousand finds. The heritage of the museum is completed by a book collection, a collection of 19th century fashion sketches, machinery, samples of dyeing chemistry and tools for preparing for weaving from various periods.

The Textile Museum is currently managed by a foundation made up of the municipality of Prato, the province of Prato, the Industrial Union, Cariprato, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Crafts.

In another part of the complex, the municipal library and related services are expected to be hosted.

Since 2003 the museum has been housed in the former Cimatoria Campolmi, one of the oldest factories in the municipality of Prato.

The building housing the Museum, the historic “Cimatoria Campolmi Leopoldo e C.,” is a monument of industrial archaeology and the only large nineteenth-century factory built within Prato’s medieval city walls. The architectural complex constitute the city’s main cultural centre; the Museum occupies half of the space, about 4000 square metres, while the other half houses the “A. Lazzerini” Municipal Library.

The former Campolmi Textile Mill is perhaps the most important example of industrial archaeology within the Province of Prato. The large 8500 square metre complex located within the historic centre had been a site of textile manufacture since the Middle Ages. In correspondence with the current factory, prior to 1326, historical records attest to the existence of a fulling mill (a building for the fulling of cloth). It was acquired by the Church and transformed into a mill that was active throughout the whole of the eighteenth century. In March of 1863, the Mill of Santa Chiara was bought by three established entrepreneurs from Prato, who transformed it into a well-established company operating in the finishing of textiles.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the building was a double storey quadrilateral shape around a rectangular courtyard, featuring a large tank for water collection and a 40-metre high brick chimney at the centre. The factory only reached the current size and conformation in the middle of the twentieth century thanks to modifications and expansions, such as the construction of the beautiful vaulted arched dye-works, which now houses the entrance to the library. Textile production ceased in 1994.

The urban renewal, achieved by the City Council, was born from the desire to transform an industrial container, a symbol of the civil history of the city, into a cultural centre. The restoration work was strictly conservative and allowed for the preservation of the original character of the structure and the subsequent historical layers. From the old factory sign to the steam-powered boiler room, from the vaulted ceiling of the historic textiles room to the aged wood beams on the upper floor.


Historic Textiles And Sacred Vestments
Historic textiles and sacred vestments: embroidered and printed textiles produced in Europe and dating from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, present in a vast array of types (velvets, tapestries, Perugia tablecloths, damasks, lampas) and decorative forms that illustrate the most significant moments in the development of European production.

Embroidered Textiles
Embroidered textiles and artefacts: samples of Italian and European embroidery featured on articles dating from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, or received through historical collections in a fragmentary condition.

Ethinic Textiles And Garments
Ethnic textiles and garments: a collection of great historical and anthropological interest, including textiles from India, Indonesia, Yemen, Central and South America, China and Japan, which, with their decorations and symbology, recall the importance of textile art as a valid instrument of social communication.

Archaeological Textiles
Archaeological textiles: a rare collection of textile fragments from excavations or burials, belonging to Coptic culture (III-X century AD) and pre-Columbian culture (Late Intermediate Period).

Samples From Prato
Samples from Prato: a collection of sample books from the longest-established companies in the Prato district, documenting the evolution of production and the changes in taste and style from the last quarter of the nineteenth century up to the contemporary period.

Sketches And Artist’s Textiles
Sketches and artist’s textiles: which include examples created by artists from the first half of the twentieth century (Raoul Dufy and Thayaht) and contemporary artists (Giò Pomodoro and Bruno Munari), who found an expressive form for their creativity in textiles.

Contemporary Fabrics
Contemporary fabrics: a selection of fabrics produced in the Prato district of particular importance for the technological innovation and expression of fashion trends since 1976, the year that the Prato Espone textile fair was inaugurated, which later became Prato Expo, up until recent years.

Garments And Accessories
Garments and accessories: a collection of clothing that bears witness to the evolution of costume from the sixteenth century to the present day. Among these, the Museum is home to a selection of examples from major film productions made with textiles manufactured in Prato.

Machinery: manual looms, fulling equipment, a willowing machine, weaving preparation tools such as spinning machines, winders, warpers, manufactured in Italy and, in some cases, the result of elaborations and devices made on-site for production in Prato.

Fashion plates: a collection of approximately 1,700 male and female figurines from major French and Italian magazines published in the 19th century.


Boiler Room
The Museum itinerary commences in the old boiler room, which is almost entirely occupied by the steam generator responsible for powering the machinery in the Campolmi textile mill before the introduction of electricity. The first steam plant within the factory dates back to 1892, but the room took on its current appearance in 1925, with the most recent adjustment made during the 1950s for the conversion to diesel fuel instead of coal. The boiler demonstrates just how complex power distribution systems were in factories in the late nineteenth century.

Historical Textiles Room
The oldest space within the entire architectural complex, this is a charming environment that lends itself well to enhancing the Museum’s historical textile collections. These are displayed on rotation, presenting new content from time to time. Therefore, presenting the public with many opportunities in which to deepen their understanding of the Museum’s various central collections. The room’s appeal is enhanced by the presence of macro video projections that create continuity between the exhibits and their historical and cultural context.

Materials And Processes Area
Textiles, the result of traditional craftsmanship and the most advanced technology, are highly complex products for anyone who is not a specialist in the field. This is an interactive and fun area which allows visitors to become familiar with the materials and textile processes, from spinning to finishing, by means of panels which include images, objects, fibres and materials to touch and video touch screens. Before continuing upstairs, the last room on the ground floor features an interactive relaxation area where visitors can play with garments and fashion plates.

Prato City Textile Room
The room retraces the most significant moments in Prato’s textile history, from the Middle Ages until the first half of the twentieth century by means of historical records, textiles, tools, machinery, scale models and samples, as well as multimedia equipment. Part of the itinerary in this room is devoted to pre-industrial wool production, the other deals with the district’s most traditional product; regenerated wool garnered from rags and manufacturing scraps.

The Fashion Industry E Prato Room
The room is dedicated to the development and transformation of the textile district and the city after the Second World War to present-day. With the birth of Italian haute couture and prêt a porter, Prato moved further and further away from the tradition of regenerated wool to embrace new products and become an integral part of the international fashion system. Prato’s image changed from the city of rags to the city of fashion.

Contemporary Textiles Room
The Museum stands out for the comprehensive documentation of the technological and stylistic innovations in contemporary textile production. New fibres and materials, technology transfers, renewals in chemistry and mechanics make the textile industry an ever-changing world. The room (450 square metres) is used for temporary installations related to this theme, as well as housing events and cultural initiatives.

Temporary Exhibition Room
The Museum organises temporary exhibitions and installations which explore textiles, fashion and historic and contemporary design, as well as exhibitions that enhance the cultural and textile heritage of the city of Prato. The final room which concludes the itinerary, a 450 square metre open space, offers an ideal setting for visually stunning displays.

Temporary exhibitions
Prato dresses the cinema, The myth through the costumes of Sartoria Tirelli, 5 May 2003 – 8 September 2003
Artists at work, New Technology in Textile and Fiber Art, 18 September – 24 November 2003
Tartan: the romantic tradition, Lo Scozzese: a fabric, a cultural identity, 14 December 2003 – 18 April 2004
Flashes of silk and gold, 350 years of textile masterpieces from the Diocese of Prato, 18 December 2004 – 31 March 2005
Jeans! The origins, the American myth, the Made in Italy ‘, 22 June – 30 November 2005
The Wonder Factory, 30 years of donations to the Prato Textile Museum, 21 December 2005 – 30 November 2005
Intrecci Mediterranei, The fabric as a dictionary of economic, cultural and social relations, 5 May – 30 September 2006
Kashmir the 5 senses, sensations, emotions, suggestions of a unique fiber, 20 January 2007 – 19 November 2007
Towards a European textile dna, Discovering European textile DNA, 30 March 2007 – 30 May 2007
Prato like me, Malapartian atmospheres, 15 June 2007 – 15 October 2007
Thayaht an artist at the origins of Made in Italy, 15 December 2007 – 14 April 2008
Superhuman Performance the evolution of sports fabrics, 20 June 2008 – 30 November 2008
The style of the Tsar, 19 September 2009 – 10 January 2010
The Climate is Changing, May 7 – July 7, 2010
The white shirt in my opinion. Gianfranco Ferrè, 1st February 2014 – 15th June 2014
True and kind art, 17 October 2014 – 31 August 2015
Facewall. 100 interweaving of possible worlds, 22 March 2015 – 1 October 2015
Heritage. Stories of fabrics and fashion, 13 November 2015 – 30 April 2016
Between art and fashion. Nostalgia for the future in post-war artist fabrics, 4 May 2016 – 19 February 2017
Gastone nencini, the fiber of a champion, 2 July 2016 – 18 September 2016
The garden of delights, 16 October 2016 – 29 January 2017
The faces of Prato, 11 November 2016 – 12 December 2016
Military supplies: a tradition of the Prato industry, 17 January 2017 -19 February 2017

Named after the Italian sculptor Alessandro Lazzerini, the Library Lazzerini project was the combined effort of Marco Mattei, architect and designer, Fabrizio Cecconi, architect, and Blacks Franco, director of the Library Lazzerini. The total cost of the renovation for the complex, including the museum and library was approximately 18 million euros.