Textilmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland

The Textile Museum of St. Gallen is one of the most important textile collections in Switzerland. Since the foundation of the museum in 1878, the collection has grown to more than 40,000 properties. In addition to machine embroidery, the company has extensive collections of hand embroidery, lace, fabric patterns, printing materials and other textile techniques.

Embedding in Switzerland’s long-standing textile tradition. The unique collections of the Textile Museum are the foundation for international exhibitions and also serve to inspire textile professionals and their latest creations. It is firmly anchored in the Swiss textiles sector which, for several centuries, shaped Switzerland´s economic and social fabric.

St. Gallen embroidery, sometimes known as Swiss embroidery, is embroidery from the city and the region of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Today, the embroidery industry has somewhat recovered. Nevertheless, the St. Galler Spitzen are still very popular as a raw material for expensive haute couture creations in Paris and count among the most famous textiles in the world.

The collections of the Textile Museum and Library St. Gallen date back to the second half of the 19h century and follow in the tradition of the museums of applied arts and design and sample collections founded throughout Europe at that time. Their purpose was to inspire industry, to serve as models for production, and also to cultivate “good taste”. In 1863 the Kaufmännisches Direktorium – the Association of St. Gallen´s Merchants – begins to specifically collect pattern samples for local manufacturers and to systematically expand the existing collection. The museum is founded in 1878. In the course of time the collection is extended through acquisitions, but above all through the donations of significant private collections and textile industry archives. The collections of the industrialist family Iklé are of utmost importance. Today the museum remains dedicated to the founding concept of being a source of inspiration for designers and innovators.

The collections portray the multifaceted history of the textile branch, its highs and lows, from the beginnings up into the present. Among the highlights of the collection are late antique fabrics from Coptic graves in Egypt, historical embroideries from the 14th century on, handmade lace from major European lace-making centers, ethnological textiles, historical fabrics and costumes, needlework utensils, and contemporary textile art objects. The hand- and machine-embroideries as well as fabric prints document the impressive development of the textile industry in Eastern Switzerland. Internationality and regional rootedness, flexible reactions to impulses from outside, and independent developments have characterized Swiss textile production from the start. To locate it within this web of inputs, own creativity, and world-wide interaction is one of the chief purposes of the Textile Museum St. Gallen. Its highly committed exhibition program attests to this and has earned the museum its reputation as one of the most important Swiss centers for questions regarding textile production in the context of general cultural-historical developments. On the basis of its collections, the Textile Museum establishes international references beyond the geographical area of Switzerland and reveals interdependencies and creative special developments.

Exhibitions as well as all collection activities are dedicated systematically to all branches and regions of Swiss textile production, although the core competence lies in the areas of embroidery and lace.

The preservation and expansion of the collections and library as well as scholarly research form a central aspect of work in the Textile Museum and keep the collections alive.

The museum uses its exhibitions and educational program to make the world of textiles accessible to a broad public and to convey respect for the creative, technical, and commercial achievements of individuals or collectives. By means of participatory projects, visitors are given the chance to contribute their own knowledge. Cooperation with schools is especially important to the museum.

The Textile Museum was founded as a sample collection for the textile industry. It wishes to follow in this tradition as a platform for textile specialists, for designers, manufacturers, and customers, serving inspiration and public discussion. Cooperation with the Swiss Textile Federation and the technical colleges should be supported.

It examines social questions, both past and present, through design and fashion.

It establishes a link between the technical and stylistic developments in textiles and other areas in the applied a rts and technology and makes it visible as part of a cultural overall development. The museum addresses current developments in the field of textiles as well as questions regarding larger historical contexts. Its internationally significant collections represent a benchmark in the public mind. The Textile Museum is an important attraction for the tourist destination St. Gallen. The museum seeks to be firmly anchored among the public through its Museum Society.