The Laboratory for Restoration of Textiles of the State Hermitage Museum was established in 1938 in order to restore banners; today it continues working with a variety of objects of decorative and applied art made of textiles. N.N. Semenovich, banner custodian, played a large part in its establishment: he theoretically justified a method of textile preservation and developed a restoration process technology that consists of duplicating the exhibit on a new base with flour paste, he formulated adhesives as well. Unique historical monuments, national trophy banners, were preserved thanks to this method. Now the adhesion method is applied only for extremely ruined exhibits that cannot be preserved in any other way.
Currently, the Laboratory staff has developed a new method for duplicating fragile textiles using modern adhesives which is thermal pressing on a new base by means of polyamide fibre. The advantage of this process is that it stabilizes the fabric; that is, it fixes it on a new base, excluding adhesive dip. The fabric elasticity is retained to a greater extent than when using flour glue. This method has been successfully applied in the restoration of banners, decorative embroidery and costume elements.
Restoration of banners is still one of the main activities of the Laboratory. Various new techniques were developed in order to carry out up-to-date preservation of this sometimes very fragile material.
The Laboratory is greatly involved in the restoration of tapestries and carpets. Different ways of restoration are applied depending on the state of tapestry preservation: duplication on a new base using the restoration seam, filling in the losses in the tapestry weaving technique and tapestry pattern reconstruction.
When restoring a costume, the most important task is to maintain fabric elasticity. Optimum results are achieved by fabric duplication by mending to the new base using a restoration seam. The technique was developed and implemented upon the initiative of N.S. Pinyagina, art restorer, and is now widely used. When restoring, it is necessary to preserve and restore in detail the original appearance of the object using the technology of its creation. A costume bears the traces of everyday use like no other museum exhibit. Specific pollution, alterations, and not always skillful repairs can significantly change its appearance and affect preservation. Costume restoration involves not only cleaning and strengthening the fabrics, but also reconstructing its form and style. Restorers require knowledge of the historical technological features of the materials, and their ingenuity and taste help to choose the optimal method.
When working with objects of decorative and applied art, the materials’ diversity in various combinations requires the use of complex restoration methods. The most difficult and responsible work is conservation of archaeological objects. Dilapidated and badly damaged fibres need a special approach to cleaning and conservation and require the utmost sensitivity.
An important aspect of the Laboratory activities is participation in the projects to restore the Winter Palace interior. From 1997 through 2000, reconstruction work was carried out at the Throne place in the Big Throne (St. George) Hall and the canopy over the portrait of Alexander I in the War Gallery of 1812. Restoration of the woven decoration of the Small Throne (Peter the Great) Room began in 2013 and still continues; in the end it will obtain its original historic appearance and will be kept that way for the next generations.
During its 75 years of existence at the State Hermitage Museum, the Laboratory for Restoration of Textiles has restored more than 14 000 exhibits. V.A. Dudina, T.I. Volgina, I.I. Solovyeva, L.A. Solomon, I.S. Nikiforova, N.B. Ambarova and T.B. Kolyadina worked at the Laboratory at different times.
From 1967 through 2003, the Laboratory was headed by art restorer N.S. Pinyagina. Several generations of highly skilled restorers have grown up under her leadership, and a large number of exhibits were restored.
Since 2003, LSRTWSP has been headed by M.V. Denisova.
Today, the Laboratory team totals 11 restorers of different generations. G.G. Fedorova and L.N. Loginova have many decades of experience in restoration; they have mastered all the methods of preservation of museum textiles. Thanks to their skill and love for the profession, many artefacts have been revived and younger fellow restorers were able to improve themselves. A.F. Alexandrova, L.Ye. Kovaleva and N.Yu. Lyakina have been engaged in the restoration of Chinese painting on silk at the Special Scientific Restoration Workshops of the State Hermitage Museum for more than 25 years. In 2004 they became employees of the Laboratory bringing experience and expertise in the field of restoration. Art restorers M.N. Tikhonova, T.V. Grunina-Shkvarok, A.A. Shapran and A.A. Ryadova came to the Laboratory having special education and have long been qualified for the restoration of museum textiles. Experience and knowledge are transmitted by restorers from hand to hand and this helps to achieve success in our work.