These days the Textile Museum manages an overall collection with around 56,000 objects. It hosts two to three special exhibitions every year, which complement thematically the permanent exhibition on the history of textiles in Eastern Switzerland. A highly varied event programme, museum-related educational activities, as well as an attractive shop round off the museum’s offerings, which find great favour with visitors both from Switzerland and abroad.
Beginnings in the 19th century
Inspired by the world fairs – technical and handicraft shows that arouse the enthusiasm of a large public from the mid-19th century onwards – the Kaufmännische Direktorium sets up the first sample collections for the region’s textile industry in 1863. In 1878 the ‘Industry and Trade Museum St. Gallen’ is founded. The museum opens in 1886 on the former site of the Seidenhof on Vadianstrasse in a palatial historicist building. On account of its red brick façade, the building, whose design is by Zurich architect Gustav Gull, is called the ‘Palazzo Rosso’, too. Besides the collections of the Kaufmännische Direktorium, it houses the Textile Library, the Drawing School, and, from 1890, the Embroidery School.
From the sample collection to the modern museum
From 1900 onwards, temporary exhibitions increasingly take place, whereby the museum can fall back on important private collections and company archives that have come to the institutions throughout the decades. They supplement the original sample collections with valuable historical textiles, which once served the textile industrialists as a template for their own production and which today count among the museum collection’s highlights.
As the years go by, the collection continues to grow. There is an increasing need for space and so the museum is extended upwards in 1956, which represents a massive alteration to the building’s appearance, as does the grey façade painted in 1962. In 1982 the museum is renamed, from the ‘Industry and Trade Museum’ to the ‘Textile Museum’ and the ‘Textile Library’. The latter is altered and extended in 1987/88. In 1991 the Textile Museum and the library are transferred to the ‘Stiftung IHK’. Since 2012 the Textile Museum St. Gallen has been run by the ‘Verein Textilmuseum’, which works closely with the ‘Stiftung Textilmuseum’, into which the ‘Stiftung IHK’ was merged in 2019.