Colleen WilsonTextile Conservator


Why did you want to become a textile conservator?
I like to work with my hands. I like old things because they bring to mind stories of who used them in the past. I have sewn since I was eight years old and like the connection to other sewers through close examination of their work. Textiles are literally the fabric of our lives and the fabrics of the lives of people who have lived in other times and places.

How did you become a textile conservator?
I have a degree in history in art and did two years of postgraduate training at the Textile Conservation Centre at Hampton Court Palace in England. Conservation is a field where History, Science and Fine Arts intersect; a detective's interest in physical clues, a chemist's willingness to analyse and experiment and an artist's eye for detail are all assets.

What does a textiles conservator do?
Conservators try to ensure that the physical evidence of the past is preserved. It's one thing to read about the way people lived – seeing the tools they used, their toys and clothes is also informative. Artifacts are historical documents of a different kind, they communicate information that is not always written down. Although sometimes we work directly on artifacts such as the McInnes uniform, we also build mounts to support unusual shapes, we devise means to prevent careless handling and to filter light, moisture and dust, as all of those things can shorten the life of an artifact.

Stories by or about this person

Curator of History, Dr Lorne Hammond and Textile Conservator, Colleen Wilson, write about the mystery of Lieutenant-Governor Robert McInnes’s uniform.