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date: 29 February 2024

Digital Resource: Conflict Textiles free

Digital Resource: Conflict Textiles free

  • Elsie DoolanElsie DoolanDepartment of Information Studies, University College London


The Conflict Textiles website is a digital resource that allows users to learn more about how individuals who have experienced or been impacted by political violence have used textiles to respond to and recount their experiences. Some of the textiles on the website were made in response to the wars and conflicts in South America in the 1970s and 1980s (including the Dirty War in Argentina, the Pinochet regime in Chile, and the conflict in Peru between the government and the Shining Path), while others have emerged as a response to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The majority of the textiles were created by women, though in some instances, men have also contributed to their creation. Conflict Textiles is the name of both the digital resource and a physical collection of textiles. Originating from the Art of Survival International and Irish Quilts in 2009 in Derry, Northern Ireland, this collection and online repository highlights the prolific use of textiles as a medium through which individuals are able to express themselves and the overarching nature of this medium as a form of expression. These two entities, the website and the physical collection, coexist, with the Conflict Textiles website documenting the textiles present in the physical collection and events that occur, or have occurred, in association with the collection. In this way, the Conflict Textiles website serves as an online repository of the physical Conflict Textiles collection and allows users internationally to learn more about a collection that includes textiles from dozens of different countries including, but not limited to, Chile, Northern Ireland, and Argentina.


  • History of Northern and Andean Spanish America
  • 1945–1991
  • 1991 and After
  • Digital Innovations, Sources, and Interdisciplinary Approaches
  • Social History
  • Revolutions and Rebellions

Conflict Textiles as an Online Collection

Textiles have been used by a plethora of communities to recount lived experiences. These communities span the globe, creating textiles on every continent, with the exception of Antarctica. The textiles in the Conflict Textiles collection were all created in response to political violence. In Chile, arpilleras were created during the Pinochet regime by women in shantytowns, using found materials and scraps. Arpilleristas, the women who make arpilleras, often sewed them in workshops where they shared their resources. The arpilleras were exported for economic support and to spread awareness, being used by solidarity groups internationally to showcase the atrocities occurring in Chile.1 In the early years of the regime, although there were limitations enforced by the government on information being sent out of the country, the arpilleras were allowed to be exported due to their perceived naivety. Their craft-like appearance and use of dolls in their scenes were not seen by the regime to be threatening, despite the fact that they depicted scenes of human rights abuses including limited water and electricity, food scarcity, and even the disappearances. Across many arpilleras, some similar symbols began to appear, such as the inclusion of mountains to represent the Andes Mountains that dominate the geography of Chile, or a sun to denote equality. Once the regime noticed the impact the textiles were having internationally, it became illegal to export them, which forced individuals and solidarity groups, such as the Vicaría de la Solidaridad, to smuggle them out of the country.2 Marjorie Agosín and Jacqueline Adams have written most prolifically about the creation of arpilleras in Chile. Agosín focused her writing on the women who made the arpilleras and their motivations, whereas Adams instead explored their use as a solidarity art and their exportation.3

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, other women who were impacted by the political violence in the Southern Cone, including in Argentina’s Dirty War and the conflict in Peru between the government and the communist group the Shining Path, also produced textiles that recounted their experience living through political violence. More recently, textiles have also been made in Colombia and Mexico. In Colombia, some women have created textiles that emerged separately from arpilleras as a form of response, yet cover similar topics. These textiles have been exhibited alongside Chilean arpilleras to document their experiences with political violence. Alternatively, women in Mexico have instead turned to yet another type of textile, embroidering handkerchiefs to document their loved ones who have been lost to violence.

In Northern Ireland, textiles were also created during a time of conflict and after. During the Troubles (1968–1998), a period of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland that saw the emergence of paramilitaries and the intervention of soldiers from the United Kingdom, women in Northern Ireland, such as Irene MacWilliam, created quilts and wall hangings that both reflected specific events from the Troubles, but also engendered overarching themes felt within the communities during the time. Though the textiles created in Northern Ireland have a different aesthetic appearance to the Chilean arpilleras, fundamentally they serve the same purpose—to bear witness to conflict. These are just a few examples of the use of textiles to respond to political violence; others can be found around the world. This is what the Conflict Textiles collection and website serve to record and make available.

Conflict Textiles is both an online and a physical collection of textiles that were generated as a response to conflict. The collection was born from an exhibition in Derry/Londonderry (hereafter referred to as Derry), Northern Ireland, called “The Art of Survival: International and Irish Quilts,” which was comprised of a variety of textiles from various countries. The majority of the textiles included in the Conflict Textiles collection are arpilleras and quilts. As discussed, arpilleras, the Spanish word meaning burlap or hessian, here refers to a type of textile (Figure 1) that originated in Chile as a way for women to document the oppressive actions of, and their own experiences under, the Pinochet regime (1973–1990). In addition to arpilleras, quilts made by Northern Irish women in response to the period of the Troubles were also included in the exhibition.

Figure 1. “Libertad a los Presos Politicos / Freedom for the Political Prisoners,” by anonymous, c. 1985.

©Conflict Textiles.

The original exhibition spawned a multitude of other exhibitions, a website, and a growing physical collection. In the years since the initial exhibition in 2008, the original Art of Survival website has evolved into the Conflict Textiles website and continues to serve as a database that is accessible worldwide. This article will focus in large part on the online repository—the Conflict Textiles website—that was built in collaboration between the Conflict Textiles collection, CAIN (Conflict Archives on the Internet), and INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute). A brief history of the collection and relevant exhibitions will be introduced to provide the context around the website’s creation. The emergence of the original website, the progression to a new web-based platform, and most importantly the content of the website, will also be discussed. Finally, this article will consider the impact the collection has had, and could continue to have, on the research of a multitude of subjects including, but not limited to, textiles, gender, politics, and conflict.

Origins of the Digital Resource

The Conflict Textiles website, as a digital resource, was created as an updated, yet separate, version of the Art of Survival: International and Irish Quilts website, which was born out of an exhibition that ran in Derry, Northern Ireland.4 In 2008, Roberta Bacic, a Chilean human rights worker who now lives in Northern Ireland, worked in collaboration with the Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Services and the Junction as a guest curator to curate the Art of Survival exhibition. The exhibition emerged from a number of conversations and presentations that Bacic had facilitated with the Quaker House Belfast in 2006 and 2007. During these conversations and presentations, Bacic interacted with women to engage with the past and introduced them to a Peruvian arpillera titled “Asociación Kuyanakuy, Ayer—Hoy,” made by displaced indigenous women as a testimonial for the Truth Commission in Peru. The introduction of the Peruvian arpillera led to an exploration into how Irish quilt makers had represented their own experiences of living through conflict during the Troubles. The mayor of Derry at the time, Helen Quigley, had attended one of the presentations that Bacic had given about the Peruvian arpillera and reached out to Bacic to organize an exhibition of textiles in Derry for International Women’s Day in 2008, which developed into the Art of Survival exhibition. The exhibition built on a previous exhibition from Germany, titled “The Art of Survival: Fabric Images of Women’s Daily Lives,” utilizing some pieces from that exhibition, as well as incorporating Northern Irish textiles. To represent the newly added pieces from Northern Ireland and the context, the exhibition was called “The Art of Survival: International and Irish Quilts.” It took place in nine locations simultaneously across Derry, including: the Tower Museum, the Harbour Museum, the Workhouse Museum, the Junction, the Verbal Arts Centre, the Void Gallery, the Church of Ireland Diocesan Centre, the Playhouse, and the Museum of Free Derry. This encouraged exhibition attendees to cross into multiple areas of the city that had histories of sectarian association.

From this exhibition emerged not only a productive working relationship between Bacic and the Tower Museum, but also the Art of Survival website and a collection of textiles that would later come to be known as the Conflict Textiles collection. Though this site began as a digital representation of the Art of Survival exhibition, it expanded to include additional exhibitions and textile pieces. As word of the exhibitions spread and they gained notoriety, the physical collection of arpilleras and textiles curated by Bacic in Northern Ireland continued to grow, and the website grew in tandem. This growth was due to both textiles that were donated to the collection, as well as textiles that were created in workshops led by Bacic and then later added to the collection. Seeing the success of the Art of Survival exhibition and the reaction of the people of Northern Ireland, Bacic decided to continue to host events and spread awareness of the collection, organizing more exhibitions in Northern Ireland and abroad, focusing on the role that textiles can play in the remembrance and discussion of conflict. Though the growth of the collection of textiles did coincide with the growth of the Art of Survival website and their content is inextricably linked, they still remained separate entities, with the physical collection being curated and managed by Bacic and the Art of Survival website being managed by CAIN, which is an online archival repository that collects and provides source materials related to the Troubles and subsequent politics in Northern Ireland.5 Additionally, as each is managed separately, they are hosted in different locations. While the Art of Survival and Conflict Textiles websites exist online, and therefore do not occupy physical space, their management takes place at Ulster University. Alternatively, the collection of textiles is located primarily with Bacic in her home on the north coast of Northern Ireland.

Development of the Digital Resource

As mentioned, the Art of Survival website emerged from the “Art of Survival: International and Irish Quilts” exhibition, which took place in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 2008. Following the success of this multi-venue exhibition, Roberta Bacic and Dr. Martin Melaugh (the director of CAIN, with Ulster University) embarked on a project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), focusing on victims, survivors, and commemoration in post-conflict Northern Ireland. One result of this project was the Art of Survival website. The site arranges the textiles into three categories—Irish Quilts, Chilean Arpilleras, and International Quilts. Once a user enters one of these subsections, the textiles are arranged by the venue in which they were exhibited. Each of these sections includes information in the form of a single, static page, with hyperlinks that anchor down the page to relevant information (Figure 2). As the website was originally created only to reflect a singular exhibition with a fixed number of textiles, when the number of exhibitions featuring quilts and arpilleras grew, the site became more difficult to navigate. Keyword searching is not available on the Art of Survival website; instead, there is a navigation bar at the top of each page to assist users in exploring the site. The navigation includes the following sections: “Menu,” “The Quilts” (which is the only section to have a secondary navigation), “Introduction,” “Exhibitions,” “Workshops,” “Documents,” “Links,” and “Contact.” As the amount of information housed on the site grew, with the number of acquisitions to the physical collection increasing and more events occurring, those who were actively working on the website realized that changes would need to be made to reflect and enhance how the site is able to be used.

Figure 2. Screenshot of Art of Survival: International and Irish Quilts Homepage, February 21, 2019.

With the site gaining content and an increasing user base, it became clear that the original database utilized by the Art of Survival website would not be sustainable. The increasing amount of information held on the pages, and the limited ability to navigate the site, made it difficult for users to locate pertinent information. Therefore, in 2014, discussions began between Roberta Bacic, Dr. Martin Melaugh, Professor Gillian Robinson, and Mike McCool (on behalf of CAIN) on how to update the database used by the website to improve the facilities available to users, so that the site would be able to function more efficiently. This resulted in the redevelopment and expansion of the Art of Survival website, creating the Conflict Textiles website, which also coincided with the official naming of the physical Conflict Textiles collection. The new site, Conflict Textiles, was launched on November 19, 2015, with an accompanying launch celebration and a workshop to provide attendees with an opportunity to become familiar with the structure of the new website. The new database includes information on each textile piece exhibited and also on each organized event (exhibition, colloquium, etc.). The information on textiles and events is linked in the database. This means that users who look for information on a particular textile are presented with linked information to each event where the textile has been displayed. Furthermore, if users search for a specific event, they will encounter information that is linked to each textile displayed at that event. This new site was built using WordPress and, as will be discussed further in the section “Structure, Organization, and Functionality,” the Conflict Textiles website evolved to utilize a more extensive search functionality, allowing users to search both Events and Textiles by Keyword, Place, and Date. Additionally, the new navigation on the site more clearly distinguishes the multifaceted nature of the Conflict Textiles collection. At the time of writing, the Conflict Textiles website remains an integral part of CAIN and is supported through CAIN’s core funding.

Operators, Supporters, and Funding

The Conflict Textiles website is run by CAIN, as part of Ulster University. All of the information found on the site is the copyright of Roberta Bacic and other contributors to the site. However, the physical textiles that are represented on the site are not the property, nor the responsibility, of Ulster University. Bacic, the collector and curator of the Conflict Textiles physical collection, works closely with CAIN to monitor the running of the site. Melaugh and McCool are the members of CAIN who work most closely with the collection. Professor Brandon Hamber and Professor Robinson (both of INCORE) were the individuals who initially proposed that the Art of Survival exhibition be captured in an online medium as part of CAIN. It was Robinson who used the connection between the Northern Irish quilts and the arpilleras as the validation that the exhibit in its entirety should fall under the purview of CAIN, a decision that needed to be validated because the primary content of CAIN relates to the Troubles and Northern Irish politics. Melaugh played an integral role in building both the Art of Survival and the Conflict Textiles websites and also for taking the photographs of many of the textiles for uploading to the websites. McCool was responsible for designing and programming the databases for the Conflict Textiles website. Together, they determined the best database structure for the updated Conflict Textiles website, in 2015. Lastly, Bacic and the Conflict Textiles assistant curator, Breege Doherty, are the primary content contributors to the Conflict Textiles website outside of CAIN. Assisted by Doherty, Bacic updates and maintains the information on the CAIN website and serves as the curator for the textiles and events that are described on the site. Doherty works closely with the team at CAIN to ensure that the content is up to date and that the website is running properly, as she is predominantly responsible for uploading information to the site.

Funding for this site is covered as part of the outreach engagement undertaken by CAIN. The original Art of Survival site was funded as part of a larger AHRC-funded project that focused on victims, survivors, and commemoration in post-conflict Northern Ireland. Following this initial funding, the sites were maintained and updated using funds allocated to CAIN. Although the websites are all maintained by CAIN, the physical Conflict Textiles collection receives alternative sources of funding.

Structure, Organization, and Functionality

The Conflict Textiles website comprises a homepage, which navigates to six separate sections of the site: “About,” “Search,” “Textiles,” “Events,” “Links,” and “Contact Us” (Figure 3). While each section contains a single page hosting information, the Search section of the site allows users to explore the Conflict Textiles collection and related events more extensively. When searching for events, users are able to either view all events, or search for specific events using drop-down menus in fields titled: “Event Types,” “Commissioned by,” “Year,” and “Venue.” Additionally, there is a keyword search where users are able to enter a search term manually. If a user wants to search for a specific textile, they also have the ability to view a list of all of the textiles, or they can search using drop-downs in fields including: “Country of Origin,” “Type,” and “Year.” The Textiles Search option also includes a “Name of Maker” field where users are able to manually enter the name of the textile creator and a keyword search field, which functions similarly to the keyword search for Events. Once the user has searched for either an event or a textile, they are taken to a results page, listing all the relevant events/textiles, which then hyperlink to the page that has been created for that specific event/textile.

Figure 3. Screenshot of the Conflict Textiles Website, February 21, 2019.

Pages that reference specific events include an image of the event, the title of the event, a distinction of the type of event, a description of the event that usually spans a paragraph or two, who commissioned the event, the dates the event took place, the venue(s), curator(s), and facilitator(s), and a description of the outcome. Furthermore, the documents that pertain to each event, if they are available, and a list of the textiles that were displayed are also included. The types of documents that are included range from an event brochure, to papers written for/presented at the event, to any promotional texts. The list of textiles displayed is also hyperlinked, so the user is able to click on the title of the textile and then be directed to that textile’s specific page and all of the relevant information included there.

Each textile has its own page that includes a picture of the textile, the title and maker of the textile, the country of origin, year produced, size (in cm), materials used, and type of textile. The page also includes a description of the textile, written by Roberta Bacic and/or Breege Doherty, that provides, if possible, the context in which it was made, the owner, location, distinction of whether the textile is a replica or an original, and the photographer of the image included on the page. Following this information, the page lists the titles of the exhibitions in which the textile has been exhibited, all of which are hyperlinked. When available, the page also includes “Textile Detail Image(s).”

The hyperlinked lists of all of the textiles included in an exhibition, as well as all of the exhibitions in which a textile has been shown, is an important feature for establishing the context of the textiles within each exhibition and the collection as a whole. As the Conflict Textiles website also functions as an online archive of the Conflict Textiles physical collections, this context allows the user to see the different ways in which the textiles interact with each other, and the user can also learn where a textile is at any given time. Additionally, the list of exhibitions provides a more complete understanding of the life of the textile, where it has been, and how it has been utilized.

The variety of searches available to users caters to various search styles. This is important since, as explained in the section “Development of the Digital Resource,” one of the issues that developed as part of the growth of the Art of Survival website was the difficulty in finding information. Such diverse capabilities, combined with the hyperlinked relationships between the textiles and the events they have appeared in, allows the information on the site to be much more accessible to users. This type of usability is a core aspect of accessibility, a consideration that will be discussed the section “Accessibility.”

Content and Coverage

The basis of the content of the Conflict Textiles website is determined by the events that are arranged by, and the textiles that are included in, the physical Conflict Textiles collection, collected and curated by Bacic. As some events include textiles that are not part of the Conflict Textiles physical collection, the site also contains references to textiles that are separate from and do not belong to the physical collection. Each of these textiles is then photographed for upload to the Conflict Textiles website. Contextual information surrounding each textile and event is generated by Bacic and Doherty. The purpose of this information is to provide as complete a provenance as possible, given the information available to Bacic and Doherty, and to archive the relevant material for textiles and events.

When contextual information is written for events, Bacic and Doherty work collaboratively with the curator or facilitator involved in the event to write the description. The “Outcome” section of the event page is written following the conclusion of the event, to describe key actions and achievements of the event and possible follow-up, which acts as a reflection of the actions and discussions that had taken place during the event. Additionally, any relevant documentation that was created as part of the organization or promotion of the event, used during the event itself, or included in publications referencing the event are contained within the “Documents” section, usually as a PDF document. Lastly, the full list of textiles on display at the event is included so that the user is able to recreate the placement of each of the textiles as part of the event and to understand the scope of the event.

The content included on the website for each textile mirrors the type of information that would be included in a detailed museum catalogue or archival finding aid. However, the Conflict Textiles website expands on the information that is usually included in a catalogue or a finding aid by including each exhibition at which the textile has been shown. When Bacic or Doherty writes a textile description, they conduct specific research into the country of origin and the theme of the work to better understand the context of its creation.6 For example, the description for the arpillera in Figure 1, “Freedom for the Political Prisoners,” reads as follows:

The women who made this kind of arpillera have resorted to their textile skills as a means by which to live with conflict and its memory on a daily basis. As Marjorie Agosín (2008) quotes: “For the arpilleristas the political events of their country and their daily lives became inseparable” (“Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love,” Rowman & Littlefield).

The struggle for better conditions for political prisoners became extremely relevant. This arpillera shows a group of women defiantly demanding the release of the prisoners inside the prison they are protesting in front of.

Actions depicted in arpilleras like this one brought international pressure on the Junta, and internal disagreements within it, made General Pinochet sign the convention against torture in 1988. In turn, this allowed Spain to indict General Pinochet on charges alleging human rights violations during his regime from 1973 to 1990.

The powerful effect of this type of political expression was not recognized at first by the military. Ariel Zeitlin Cooke explains: “Ironically, war textiles are largely disregarded by modern military authorities because of their feminine connotations and can therefore be a relatively safe forum for dangerous or provocative ideas” (Weavings of War).

When the Chilean military finally recognized the power of the arpilleras, they condemned these works as subversive materials and if found they would have been stopped at Customs and destroyed before leaving the country.7

This description provides context for the imagery in the arpillera, both in a historical and a textile context. These descriptions are searchable when the user uses the “keyword” search. When possible, Bacic and Doherty will also work together with the creator of the textile to generate the description. This is a point of departure from how museum catalogues and archival finding aids are written, as both museums and archives tend to generate metadata internally, with little input from the materials’ creators. When Bacic and Doherty write a description, they focus on the narrative of the piece by answering three primary questions:


What is happening in this piece and what is the maker trying to convey or appeal to?


What is the local/national context that has prompted the maker to create this piece?


Are there any facts or figures or background research that strengthen the message?8

If the maker has not titled the piece, or if the title is not known at the time of acquisition, Bacic and Doherty also work to name the piece. When doing this, they consider the three questions and attempt to decide on a title that honors the original message that its creator aimed to convey.

The textiles and events included within the website span dozens of countries across North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The types of textiles include appliquéd wall hangings, arpilleras, banners, embroidered handkerchiefs, quilts, and “memory cloths,” among others. Oftentimes, the medium chosen by the textile creator is dependent on the resources available and the historical textile culture of the area. One example of this is the use of quilts in Northern Ireland, due to the strong local history of creating quilts that dates back centuries. Alternatively, some textiles present in the collection have been created as part of arpillera workshops, which introduced women to the artform and taught them some of the techniques. In these cases, the type of textile created was predetermined by the nature of the workshop, rather than by historical/cultural ties to a specific type of textile. The events encompass workshops, book launches, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, and more. The underlying theme of the Conflict Textiles collection and website are the textiles, with the events following their journeys across the globe.


The Conflict Textiles website is easily accessible to anyone with access to the Internet. There are no outstanding barriers to entry for users as the site is easily navigable, with no pay walls encountered at any point. Additionally, with contact information readily available in the navigation bar at the top of the page, any user who is interested in either obtaining high-resolution images or getting in contact with the curators of the exhibit are provided with email addresses and descriptions of each individual’s role. One aspect of potential inaccessibility is originally addressed on the “Contact Us” page, where it is noted that the curator, Roberta Bacic, is able to respond in both English and Spanish. This brings to the fore that the majority of the website uses English for descriptive and navigation purposes. Some descriptions of events and names of textiles are in Spanish, as they took place or originated in Spanish-speaking countries or communities, though these must be located by using the predominantly English-language website. The language of the website makes sense, as it is funded and was built by CAIN, an institution housed in Northern Ireland, an English-speaking country. Furthermore, as discussed in the section “Operators, Supporters, and Funding,” the predominant reasoning for the entirety of the collection being fostered by CAIN as an online repository is because of the Irish textiles that reference the Troubles being included in the collection. However, as a large number of the textiles present in the collection are originally from non-English-speaking countries or communities, the use of English as the primary language of the site could limit the accessibility of the site to those whom it represents. Depending on what browser is used, however, this barrier can often easily be overcome by using the translation tools available in the majority of Internet browsers, which automatically translate the page to the user’s preferred language. Moving forward, Bacic has made an active choice to include entries for events that take place in Spanish-speaking countries in Spanish, in an attempt to be more accessible to those who organized or attended the event. Ideally, entries would be included in both English and Spanish, but unfortunately, due to budget and time resource restraints, this is not possible at present.

Future Directions

The Conflict Textiles website will continue to grow with the physical collection and reflect all future physical exhibitions that take place. The infrastructure for the site allows for events to be referenced on the site before they occur under the “Future Events” tab, with events transitioning from “Future” to “Current” and then to “Previous” to reflect the date that they were held. Future exhibitions will follow the “Stitching and Unstitching the Troubles” template, which is structured with the goal of remaining accessible for both the community, through the introduction of workshops and guided tours of the exhibition, and an academic audience via related talks and discussions. These exhibits offer an opportunity to promote both the familiarity of users with the physical collection, but also an increased awareness of the website as an online repository.

The Conflict Textiles website will also reference two permanent exhibitions that have been established. The first permanent exhibition is at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry, Northern Ireland. This exhibition began in 2015, with an agreement that two pieces exclusively from the Conflict Textiles physical collection would be held on display at the Verbal Arts Centre, rotating on a six-month basis. Beginning in 2019, another permanent exhibit will take place in Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc, in Catalonia, Spain. This follows on from a number of joint exhibitions between Bacic and the arpillera-making collective at Fundació Ateneu Sant Roc. These permanent exhibitions allow users in various geographical locations to gain access to physical textiles and a physical appreciation for what is digitally represented on the Conflict Textiles website.

It is important to note that the future of the Conflict Textiles website is not necessarily linked to the future of the Conflict Textiles physical collection, as Ulster University holds the copyright over the website. However, at present the intent is for the website and the physical collection to continue to work in tandem. In order to maintain this working relationship, however, funding is required for both projects (which are funded separately), including for managing the workload needed to keep both functioning.

Moving forward, both the Conflict Textiles website and the physical collection will continue to serve as reference points for the study of textiles, gender, and reflections on conflict. The website serves as an online repository, which is accessible globally to anyone interested in these subjects and textiles, to understand their provenance, and to gain insight into the context and interactions between the textiles while on exhibit. The interaction of the collection and the website serves as a case study for how the integration of physical and digital forms of outreach and representation, working in unison, enhances an archival collection and should serve as an example for future types of working relationships. At the time of writing, this format has not yet been replicated by other textile websites.

Discussion of Related Research Tools


The majority of content currently available on arpilleras is found in published sources. Marjorie Agosín wrote the foundational texts regarding arpilleras, including the books Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile and Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras: Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship.9 These texts include primary interviews and research into the arpillera-making workshops and their use as testimony in Chile. We, Chile, by Emma Sepulveda, is also a seminal book that collects the testimonies of arpilleristas in Chile during the 1990s.10 Jacqueline Adams is another integral writer in the field of arpilleras. Her book, Art Against Dictatorship: Making and Exporting Arpilleras Under Pinochet, discusses arpilleras not only as textiles of testimony, but as objects with an active role in the solidarity movement.11 Adams has also written the article “Using Visual Methods in Human Rights Research,” which references the role of arpilleras as sources for human rights research.12 Collections of arpilleras are available in various physical locations as well. These include, but are not limited to, the Museum of Memory in Santiago, Chile, the Oshima Hakko Museum in Nagano, Japan, and the Museum Frauenkultur Regional-International [The Women’s Museum] in Führt, Germany. In addition, there are a number of postgraduate research projects in progress researching additional lessons that may be derived from arpilleras.

Textiles (More Generally) in Relation to Conflict

There are a host of sources that discuss the relationship between textiles and conflict. Most notable is the catalogue book Weavings of War, edited by Ariel Zetlin and Marsha MacDowell.13 This book discusses a variety of political and conflict situations in which textiles have been used as a medium to express the creator’s experiences. There is an also an ongoing blog, Stitched Voices, that was established alongside an exhibition of the same name by faculty and graduate students of the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University, Wales.14 This blog is comprised of regular entries from a variety of textile artists and researchers. Additionally, the Storycloth Database functions as an online database of collections of story cloths related to human rights and is associated with George Washington University in the United States.15 Research is currently under way in this field to understand the role of textile work and “craftivism” in protest.

Primary Sources

Oshima Hakko Museum, Japan, 2567–1, Kiyono, Matsushiro, Nagano City, Nagano 381–1233, Japan.

Museum Frauenkultur Regional-International [The Women’s Museum], Postfach 210421, D-90122/Nürnberg, Germany.

Further Reading

  • Adams, Jacqueline. “When Art Loses Its Sting: The Evolution of Protest Art in Authoritarian Contexts.” Sociological Perspectives 48, no. 4 (2005): 531–558.
  • Adams, Jacqueline. Art Against Dictatorship: Making and Exporting Arpilleras Under Pinochet. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013.
  • Adams, Jacqueline. “Using Visual Methods in Human Rights Research.” Journal of Human Rights 17, no. 5 (October 20, 2018): 674–684.
  • Agosín, Marjorie. Tapestries of Hope, Threads of Love: The Arpillera Movement in Chile. 2nd ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  • Agosín, Marjorie. Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras : Chilean Women and the Pinochet Dictatorship. Translated by Cola Franzen. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1987.
  • Bryan-Wilson, Julia. Fray: Art and Textile Politics. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2017.
  • Cooke, Ariel Zeitlin, and Marsha MacDowell, eds. Weavings of War: Fabrics of Memory; An Exhibition Catalogue. East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum, c. 2005.
  • Hunter, Clare. Threads of Life: A History of the World Through the Eye of a Needle. London: Hodder & Stroughton, 2019.
  • Nickell, Karen. “‘Troubles Textiles’: Textile Responses to the Conflict in Northern Ireland.” TEXTILE 13, no. 3 (May 27, 2015): 234–251.
  • Parker, Rozsika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. Rev. ed. London: Women’s Press, 1996.
  • Sepulveda, Emma. We Chile: Personal Testimonies of the Chilean Arpilleristas. Falls Church, VA: Azul Editions, 1996.