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Minnesota History Center
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St. Paul, MN 55102
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Clothing and Textiles


Young girls making quilt, ca. 1935. Photograph Collection. Location no. N4.4 p6, Negative no. 39472

Young girls making quilt, ca. 1935.

  • Display textiles in low light. Avoid direct sun and fluorescent light.
  • Display textiles for limited periods of time to reduce damage from exposure to excessive amounts of light. Put items on display for a while and then replace with other items.
  • Framed textiles, such as samplers, may benefit from having ultraviolet light-filtering glass installed.
  • Do not allow the textile to touch the glass; use spacer in the frame rabbet or a window mat.


  • Store fabric where temperature and humidity are moderate and consistent; avoid attics and basements.
  • Store folded textiles with as few folds and creases as possible.
  • Use acid-free boxes with acid-free tissue or white bed sheets tucked in the folds to prevent sharp creases.
  • When hanging clothing, use padded hangers to prevent creases and stress to the shoulders. The hanger should be no wider than the width of the garment at the shoulders.
  • Large flat textiles like flags and shawls can be rolled onto tubes. A large-diameter tube is best. If using an acidic cardboard tube, cover it with layers of acid-free paper, cotton sheets or cotton muslin.
  • Inspect stored materials periodically for insect damage. Do not use mothballs, which are not effective as a repellent and are a suspected carcinogen. Non-toxic "sticky" traps placed along baseboards are an effective way of limiting insects. A large number of insects in a trap will alert you to a problem and the source or cause can then be investigated. Prevention is much better than application of pesticides after damage has already occurred.


  • Textiles and clothing benefit from being vacuumed periodically to remove dust. Use the bristled, round furniture brush on low suction. Vacuuming through a clean piece of nonmetallic window screen will keep delicate fabric and loose threads from being pulled into the vacuum.
  • Some textiles, such as white cotton or linen clothing, may be washed or cleaned. Contact the Minnesota Historical Society conservation department or a local museum for advice before attempting to wash.
  • Dry cleaning antique clothing and other textiles is usually not recommended. Commercial dry cleaning uses strong solvents, heat and a lot of hard tumbling or mechanical action. If you think that a textile needs to be dry cleaned, contact the Minnesota Historical Society conservation department or a local museum for advice.

Other Resources

This handout is being distributed by the Conservation Outreach Program of the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) as a public service. The distribution of this handout does not constitute a recommendation by MHS of any specific vendor or their products, nor will MHS assume liability for products supplied by a vendor. Each application must be evaluated individually and materials selected that best suit the condition of the object and how it is to be used. If you have questions about a particular application, treatment, or service, please contact the MHS Conservation Outreach program at: 651-259-3465, 1-800-657-3773, FAX at 651-296-9961 or email at conservationhelp@mnhs.org.