On May 17, China National Silk Museum (NSM) launched the International Museum Day Forum on the theme of “The Power of Museums: Research, Collaborations, and Community.”
Dr. An Laishun, VP of ICOM, Dr. Kate Seymour, Chair of ICOM International Committee for Conservation (ICOM-CC), Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset, Chair of ICOM COSTUME, Prof. Sally Yerkovich, Chair of ICOM Standing Committee on Ethics, Prof. Marie Louise Bech Nosch, President of Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Mr. Xudong Wang, Director of The Palace Museum, and many other scholars all participated and gave presentations.
On April 15, NSM officially launched the Silk Road Online Curating Competition while the Silk Road Week will be initiated on May 27. “NSM aims to celebrate the 30th anniversary through a series of activities,” said by Dr. Zhao Feng, Director of the China National Silk Museum.
What influence do museums hold in the world?
On May 18, 2022, the International Museum Day, themed “The Power of Museums” is intended to highlight museums’ capability and potential of influencing the world.
To celebrate the “International Museum Day”, NSM has just held the “The Power of Museums” forum, inviting museum insiders to discuss each museum’s practice for “Research and digitization,” “International collaborations” and “Community integration.”
NSM has been planning and executing its digital museum platform, which has involved more than 40 museums worldwide. That includes digital collections, digital exhibitions, digital knowledge, and virtual curating programmes, which are dedicated to developing the Silk Road Online Museum into a curating platform widely recognized by international museums.
In 2022, the Silk Road Online Curating Competition is launched, and it invites students of museology and design as well as jobholders to participate in the curating competition.
Since 2020, the week before and after June 22 (the inscription of the Silk Roads on the UNESCO World Heritage List) will be set as “Silk Road Week” every year for encouraging cultural institutions along the Silk Roads to hold activities to elevate the spirit of Silk Roads.
Shahbaz Khan, the representative of the UNESCO in China, visited the opening ceremony and delivered a speech praising the Silk Road Week event as a model for enhancing learning among people, fully embodying the Zhejiang’s practice in the cultural heritage sector and Chinese wisdom, and was received by the cultural heritage sector both at home and abroad.
The third “Silk Road Week” will be launched in 2022, and it will invite Qinghai Province as the guest province and Uzbekistan as the guest country to jointly explore the Silk Roads, one of the greatest common heritages of mankind, to empower modern life.
For NSM, historical heritage is brought to life through events like the Chinese Costume Festival, Hangzhou Global Qipao Festival, Biennale of Natural Dyes (BoND), which convert the findings into transmittable cultural content, and promoting in a way favored by the public.
Where does NSM rank in China?
As the world’s biggest silk-specialized museum, NSM has been dedicated to carrying forward systematic, original, and advanced research from a global perspective. It aims to uncover the scientific, historical, and artistic value of textiles unearthed along the Silk Roads through multidisciplinary means, and to explain the bi-directional circulation of the ancient Silk Roads and its profound significance to the development of Chinese and the world civilization.
China National Silk Museum (NSM) is devoted to serving one purpose: taking Chinese silk as the core, derived from the cultural heritage of textiles and clothing, to promote the four major sectors which are silk history, technology protection, traditional crafts, and contemporary fashion, and serving coordinated cultural, economic, and social development.
NSM aims to flourish the research, protection, display, inheritance, and innovation of silk textile and clothing culture. It is dedicated to carrying forward the Silk Road spirit from home to abroad and working as a bridge for cultural exchanges and mutual learning of civilizations.
NSM will spare no efforts in developing a research-oriented, international, dedicated, and fashion-focused museum to revitalize traditional craftsmanship as well as to promote the creative transformation of innovative development of silk culture and empower a better life.
China National Silk Museum (NSM) has initially established a rather complete textile preservation system of ancient and modern Chinese and foreign textiles, forming a database and sample library of textile cultural relics with complete chronology, clear archaeological information, and complete varieties and categories. NSM also constructed a global coverage of Chinese silk cultural relics design material library, making the past serve the present.
By the end of 2021, NSM has a total collection of nearly 70,000 pieces/sets, covering ancient weaving and embroidery treasures, ancient costumes unearthed and handed down along the Silk Roads, modern Chinese and Western costumes, national costumes of the world, and intangible culture of the silkworm, mulberry, dyeing, weaving, embroidery, Chinese and foreign fashion art, textile fabrics, design drafts, silk samples, and fiber artworks.
What role does research play?
NSM adheres to conducting research on the origin of silk, cultural exchanges, traditional weaving and dyeing, textile protection and restoration and so forth, and strives to build a “research-oriented museum” and continue to lead the international silk culture research.
Simultaneously, NSM takes silk as the research object to promote international cooperation in cultural and scientific exchanges in a comprehensive way. It also intends to provide technical support for the research on textiles unearthed from national sites along the Silk Roads by setting up overseas workstations and carrying out project cooperation.
The research results are published in multilingual forms. Now, the research team has sorted out the silks scattered in the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes from Britain, France, Russia, and other countries, and published the “Textiles from Dunhuang” in multiple languages, which fills the void of Dunhuang Studies in silk research. The study is an important support for research in the fields of the Silk Roads, textile and clothing art history and other related fields.
The team started the “Chinese Silk Art Series” project, which will comprehensively collect, organize, research, edit and publish 100 volumes of Chinese silk cultural relics collected in museums around the world. NSM is also actively exploring and constructing knowledge content from a global perspective. In 2020, the museum launched the “World Map of Silk” which is a cooperation project with scholars and universities from many countries abroad.
The project is based on the silk heritage from a global perspective and the identification of silk cultural relics, dating, geographical traceability, technical restoration, modelling analysis, etc.
As a cross-language interactive map of world silk, it aims to conduct correlation analysis on the silk heritage information, to carry out cooperative research on silk cultural exchanges, develop real-time interactive, growable and evolvable knowledge service tech, and visualize the results, to improve the World Silk Heritage Framework and build a knowledge community.
What is the role of fashion?
As the first national silk professional museum in China, China National Silk Museum (NSM) mainly focused on displaying the development achievements of China’s textile and silk industry at the beginning of its establishment. At the same time, through the analysis of its own advantages and the observation of the world’s top art museums, NSM decided to take fashion as the entry point to build a fashion museum in China, in line with global standards.
Upholding this belief, NSM launched its first fashion exhibition “Discovery· FASHION: 2011 Annual Fashion Review”, presenting the 2011 annual fashion trends from clothing and fabrics, home textile fabrics and finished products, clothing, and fashion information, showing the fashion side of China and introduced the concept of fashion into the museum exhibition.
Today, the Fashion China Annual Review Series of China National Silk Museum (NSM) has gone through 11 years and has closely focused on sorting out representative fashion weeks, events, exhibitions, and other similar activities in the country, sifted and collected the most influential designer works and textile fabric products of the year, and held a series of fashion forums, fashion shows, and other series, that has attracted much attention in China.
At the same time, China National Silk Museum (NSM) further extended its fashion vision to the world, cooperated with ROM and V&A, and launched “Dior by Dior (1947-1957)” and “Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion” in 2019 and 2020, which attracted widespread attention.
In 2022, NSM adheres to the tenet of “making cultural relics alive and making life better” and joins hands with Hangzhou Tower to create the “NSM· Fashion Museum”, bringing the fashion collections of the museum into the most fashionable place in Hangzhou’s shopping mall.
On February 26, the first exhibition of “NSM· Fashion Museum”, titled “Fashion Silhouettes” raised its curtains, and new exhibitions will be held every quarter.
Director Zhao Feng commented: “The National Silk Fashion Museum is a cooperation between Zhejiang cultural institutions and Hangzhou commercial business.”
“This is the first state-owned museum in China which enters the commercial space in the city center and holds a long-term special exhibition in it; Hangzhou Tower has also become the first large-scale commercial space in China that introduce exhibitions from national museums on a long-term basis; finally, this is the first fashion museum to be opened in fashion space. Therefore, it is of great significance and has a long-lasting influence,” Zhao further said.
How valued is China’s role in the silk industry?
China is the birthplace of silk in the world, and the long-standing Chinese silk culture has written a profound chapter in Chinese civilization. The ancient Silk Roads connect the East and the West and have become an important trade and cultural exchange channel, making outstanding contributions to mutual learning between Eastern and Western civilizations.
To this end, the National Silk Museum has held the “Silk Road” themed exhibitions for seven consecutive years since 2015, showing the profound cultural heritage and superb silk technology of the oriental country of silk in an all-round way, becoming a golden symbol for Zhejiang to carry out cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries.
Among them, in 2020, the exhibition “The Silk Roads: Before and After Richthofen” won the Top 10 Exhibitions Awards for all the museums in China. The rapid development of the museum is inseparable from the painstaking efforts of the leaders.
The director, Dr. Zhao Feng, was appointed as the deputy director in 1991 and served as the director in 2010, now it is his 31st year working at NSM. He is not only a top expert in the field of Chinese silk and textiles but also an important force in the field of international textiles and museums. He has visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the British Museum in London as a visiting researcher.
He is a member of the ICOM Ethics Committee (ETHCOM), member of the Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens (CIETA), and chairman of the International Association for the Study of Silk Road Textiles (IASSRT). While attaching great value to the national silk, he will also devote more to promoting the voice of Chinese museums.
“In the next 30 years, I hope that NSM can adhere to the consistent concept of ‘Broad vision, Solid foundation, High specificity, Exquisite craftsmanship’, take the wind of the times, condense social aspirations, gather the strength of the whole museum, and build a comprehensive, research-oriented, internationalized and fashionable Chinese silk museum.”