Research projects

Research underlies all the Museum’s scientific activities, including conservation, studying artefacts, the organisation of temporary exhibitions and archiving innovative fabrics.

The Museum actively collaborates with national and international research centres and universities, contributing its know-how to developing experimental research projects that delve into historical, production and technological themes.


The project was conceived through the scientific-technical study of archival and historiographic documents from the Prato merchant Francesco di Marco Datini. Its objective was the experimental reproduction of a textile product – a cloth – representing the textile identity of Prato and its territory over the centuries.

The collaboration of economic historians, sector technicians and textile historians achieved a thoroughly multidisciplinary approach aimed at finding the most reliable and demonstrable path to produce the cloth. The technical production data was determined from original archival documentation published in 1962 by the scholar Federico Melis in Aspetti della vita economica medievale (Aspects of medieval economic life). In the volume, Melis analyses the economic and production data of a commission of six cloths woven with Minorcan wool and ordered by one of the Francesco di Marco Datini Firms (1394-1398).

The project, spanning over three years of work (2012-2015), enabled the development of a technical data sheet and the production of four pieces of cloth, replicating the texture and dimensions defined in the documents, in the colours scarlet, green, blue and purple.


In 2014, the Museum collaborated on a study conducted by Dr Cristina Scibé on the metallic threads present in the decoration and weaving of medieval fabrics of Arab manufacture or influence. The study particularly focused on Hispano-Islamic fabrics from Al-Andalus and textiles from Sicily and Lucca, dating from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. The scientific-analytical research obtained from the analyses of micro-samples was carried out thanks to the collaboration of two important institutes dedicated to the conservation and restoration of cultural heritage: Instituto de Patrimonio Cultural de España in Madrid and Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.

The main objective of the study was to learn about the processing technology (materials and techniques) of metallic threads through the analysis of specific case studies selected from the most interesting international textile collections in order to identify the artisan technique used and understand how this spread and developed in the different Arab textile factories (Tiraz) within the territories dominated by Islam.


In connection with the studies for the experimental reproduction of a cloth from the Francesco di Marco Datini Firm in Prato, the Museo del Tessuto, with the consent of the State Archives of Prato, requested a specific investigation into the dye substances present in some wool samples attached to the merchant’s business letters. In 2013, the letters were deposited at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, which enabled the micro-sampling of fibres from the samples using conservative techniques.

The analyses conducted by the OPD under the direction of Susanna Conti and in collaboration with the University of Pisa (Faculty of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry) also included non-invasive examinations (such as radiography). The morphological analysis of the samples, useful to identify the nature of fibres and yarns, was conducted by observing the samples under a stereomicroscope. Subsequently, after the samples were prepared, the analysis continued by observing them under an optical microscope in transmitted visible light using various magnification lenses. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with a UV-Visible diode array detector (DAD) and with confirmation by HPLC combined with high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-ESI-Q-ToF) was employed to identify the dyeing material. The dye was hypothesised on the basis of the presence of the specific molecular markers contained within and, in some cases, also assisted by the semi-quantitative analysis of the same.