Saving the Textile Conservation Centre – a Winchester centre of excellence

One local story that hasn’t received the national coverage that it deserves is the University of Southampton’s plan to close the world-renowned Textile Conservation Centre at the Winchester School of Art.

The Textile Conservation Centre is not just a centre of excellence. It is the worldwide centre of excellence in textile conservation research, education and practice. The majority of trained textile conservators around the world studied at TCC.

Amongst other things, they’ve saved pirate flags, Nelson’s sails, the elephant man’s hat, Marlene Dietrich’s dresses and Freddy Mercury’s trousers.

A petition against the closure has been launched on the Number 10 website and has already been backed by more than 1,500 people. Please sign it if you can.

Southampton is treating the TCC as a “profit centre” – and because it’s not “profitable” – and they, rightly, don’t want to compromise on excellence, they say they are forced to close it. (It’s proving hard for campaigners to get the figures to check this).

They are also claiming that they “investigated transferring the TCC to an alternative university”. Several other institutions have, unsurprisingly, shown interest in wanting to take over a world centre of excellence, including the University of Winchester. There is, however, a catch. The specialist building, funded and built for the purpose of hosting the TCC has been excluded from any deal – meaning that any new host institution would have to build their own building from scratch or find a suitable site to refurbish.

Personally, I find this part of their case hard to understand. Just over 50% of the cost of the building – more than £1.7 million – came from outside sources and was specifically earmarked for the textile conservation centre. As I understand it, the university may not even own the land the TCC sits on. So I find it hard to see how they can justify hanging on to the building and wholly excluding it from any deal.

It also seems madness that another Winchester-based institution would have to build a replacement Textile Conservation Centre when there is a perfectly good one available off North Walls.

And if Southampton do close the TCC and hang on to the building, we’re still left with another question. What do they intend to use it for?

Update: I’ve been contacted by the University of Southampton and they have helpfully clarified a few issues. The site is owned by the University of Southampton and they would intend to use it for academic purposes (presumably the Art School). There are still questions about the source of funding (Was the land previously owned – or given to the University for the purposes of the TCC? Aside from the funding put into the original building by the TCC Foundation, were any of the funds that the University put into the building generated by the TCC or provided to the Unversity for the purpose of the TCC?). The University (who don’t appear to have a public statement that I can link to) and the Institute of Conservation appear to have a different take on the source of the original funding used for the building.

What we shouldn’t forget though is that this isn’t just about the University of Southampton. If we lose the TCC, that means the end of post-graduate training in textile conservation in the UK. There is no plan b. The country as a whole will be worse off, and there will be knock-on consequences for our museums and heritage – and the tourism and arts that rely on them.

You can read the Institute of Conservation’s views here. >>

Other bloggers have commented here and here.

This entry was posted in Textile Conservation Centre. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Responses to Saving the Textile Conservation Centre – a Winchester centre of excellence

  1. Pingback: Save the Textile Conservation Centre » Saving the Textile Conservation Centre - a Winchester centre of excellence

Warning: Undefined variable $req in /homepages/12/d143831057/htdocs/winchester/wp-content/themes/winmarm2/functions.php on line 2396

Get in Touch

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.