The Textile Museum of Prato

The Italian city of Prato, located just 20 km north of Florence, has traditionally been an important centre for textile production. While its glorious days as a European centre of textile manufacturing may be behind it, the old city still preserves the heritage of its fabric industry in the Prato Textile Museum. The museum aims to promote and valorise the art and craft of textile that had contributed importantly to the city’s wealth in medieval and renaissance times. Operating since 1975, the museum gained forces in the last decade, after its relocation in a large and well-organised space within the old city walls.
The collection of textiles at the museum includes archaeological items retrieved from Coptic tombs, as well as Italian and European creations rising back to medieval times. An important collection of embroidered Italian textiles reveals the superb achievements of local masters. Other items represent artistic creations from the Far East, America and Yemen. The permanent exhibition explores the development of techniques and patterns across time and space, and shows the similarities and differences of textile creations in different parts of the world.
The centre of the exhibition highlights some important moments in the history of Prato, since medieval times to the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition documents the rise of textile production as a family-based industry, leading to the innovative local projects of Giovan Battista Mazzoni who launched the mechanisation of the industry in the early 19th century. Thanks for his efforts, Prato was able to produce a range of high-quality wool textiles which gained an international fame. After the Second World War, the local textile sector started to work in close cooperation with the growing Italian fashion industry, launching joint projects with leading fashion houses including Armani and Missoni.
A special laboratory within the museum is dedicated to conservation and restoration. Here, the museum’s experts make sure that the collections are kept in perfect shape. The restorers also provide services to other museums and to private collectors, and organise internships and formative courses.