The TRC collection of textiles, clothing and accessories from around the world was started in 1997 with 43 pieces from Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria. Since then it Indian batik for a sarihas grown to almost 26000 items (November 2019). The items come from very diverse backgrounds with respect to time and place. Some of the items in the collection have been purchased, but the vast majority has been collected during fieldwork or very kindly donated by various institutions and private donors.
The collection has no boundaries with respect to geography or time. It ranges from Afghan embroidery, German Lederhosen, Indonesian batiks, historical textiles from Leiden, to delicate silks from Renaissance Italy and spinning and weaving equipment from the Andes. Diverse? Yes, but there is one common denominator: The TRC focusses on the language of textiles and dress, and hence the common factor is that all items have a story to tell. Why do people wear this item of clothing? Why do people wear silk or cotton garments? What do they want to tell the world with their appearance, and how do people interpret and understand such a statement.
All of the pieces in the TRC collection have been catalogued and incorporated into the TRC Digital Collection Database. By November 2019, two thirds of the objects in the collection have been photographed and all information and the photographs can be used free of charge by anyone who is interested, but please add the reference: 'Courtesy Textile Research Centre, Leiden', and the registration number, e.g. TRC 2017.1765.
To give an idea of the range and depth of the collection, below we present a broad outline of some of its most important and intriguing elements.