I'm planning to visit a museum which has several samples of 16th and 17th C bobbin lace.  Based on the website, only one piece of the period lace is out on display, and it seems that most of the pieces have not yet been photographed for their website.  Those that have photos don't have the option to zoom in to really see details.

I figured out which department manages the textiles, and I'd like to email them and see if it would be possible to get access to the lace not on display when I'm there.  What should I say?  Are there certain things I should/should not mention?  Helpful tips?  BTW, it's the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Many Thanks!

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From my experience at the Art Institute of Chicago, I would say to be specific and demonstrate that you are serious.  Try to figure out how many pieces they have from Italy and Flanders dating from the 1500s and 1600s.  Let them know that you have used their online lists to get a rough idea.  If they give you an appointment try to get one at least 2 - 3 hours long.  If you spend only half an hour they will take you for a dilettante, and not worth their trouble.  Bring a stack of paper and a pencil.  Make drawings.  You might also tell them you want to make drawings of the thread paths.  There is no telling what the culture and atmosphere is in the textile department.  Serious scholars will probably get more cooperation than someone with a mild interest.  Your interest is serious.  They need to know that.  Bring your own magnifier.  Don't use a pen. They won't let you touch anything.

Perhaps other members can make suggestions as well.

Don't wear anything that dangles off of the body and may hit the viewing table when you bend over to look.  This would include anything such as jewelry, scarves, very loose clothing, etc.  Be prepared to leave your purse/bag behind in a locker.  Sometimes they have you do that and you need to just take your notes, pencil and camera with you.  Think about how you are going to organize the photos before you go in there.  Are you going to write down the accession numbers in your notes?  Definitely organize these asap upon returning to a computer.  If you haven't already, play with the camera at home and figure out the best settings on your camera to capture the stitches.


I would just tell them briefly about your interest in lace, maybe saying the main reason for your trip is to see the lace and when you are thinking of visiting the museum. You could ask if it is possible to make an apointment with someone to see the laces of your interest, like saying " Would it be possible to make an apointment when it suits you so I can be shown the lace of interest" Maybe suggesting that you are prepared to give a small donation to Cleveland Museum, which could be lace made by you but of a certian period that interests the museum.

I know this can be done as i have had the same experience with our local museum, I had to make an apointment so one of the staff could show me these artifacts that were always locked away.

I have just visited their website and you can give by either making some lace for them or maybe a historical piece, just some ideas, you can also become a member of Cleveland Museum. Would love to hear how you got on.

Thanks to all for the suggestions.  I emailed the museum but haven't heard back from the textiles department; however, the archives group responded and at least now I have a name and email address for someone in textiles.   Hopefully we'll be able to start a dialog and they can let me know the next steps for working with them.  I'm guessing that most museums handle these types of requests differently; there are general principles that apply but each has their own idiosyncrasies.

Fortunately, my medieval recreation group, the SCA, seems to have a good relationship with the museum.  I found out they did a demo there a few months ago, so hopefully that will work in my favor.  Finger crossed!  I'll post an update once I hear back.

I am so glad to hear you got a response, to keep the flow going send them an email asking them what steps you need to take to work along with them, or if there is anything you can do to get it all started. No matter how small the question or suggestion you ask them it doesn't matter, as long as you keep the contact going.
Surely the demo done by the SCA will give them a visual memory and put you a few steps ahead.
Looking forward to the update.

Nancy, it has been a while since you last updated us on this project.  Have you had any success accessing the stored laces?  


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