It was after the conference " Culture and Region "
organised in Florence in May 1987 - by the Council of Cultural
Co-operation and the Standing Conference of Local and Regional
Authorities - that the theme of Silk was elected as a cultural
route in 1998.
The initial thought was related to the role of
silk in the European economy, culture and trade, as well as to the
relationship between Europe and the Orient.
goals and objectives
One of the goals of the route was to end up
establishing trajectories based on visits of historic sites,
museums and cultural and industrial places that emphasise the
cultural heritage and the old and current trade flows connected to
textiles and the know-how that comes with them. The actions
organised are at the same time of artistic, scientific and
patrimonial nature. They also aim at reviving craft and industrial
production. Since its election, the topic has attracted the
adhesion of a great number of experts who brought their competence
and contribution to the concrete implementation of cultural routes,
to the organisation of conferences and the drafting of reports. The
experts' work in particular made it possible to rediscover and
valorise a little known history of the role of silk in Europe,
whose characteristics have remained hidden by more outstanding
historical facts related to the Silk Roads from East to West.
Since 1987, seven great meetings for " launching "
national or regional routes have taken place. They were connected
with other purely scientific meetings aiming at giving progress
reports on research in the field of silk. This theoretical and
practical knowledge made it possible to connect experts from
various countries with local authorities, agents from the economic
sectors concerned, and tourism professionals. In 1988, the first
meeting in Como, Italy, made it possible to bring together all the
Italian experiments and to present the first two general reports on
silk in Europe. Since then, two regional working routes were the
subject of various actions, one in the area of Como/Lecco North of
Milan and the other in the province of Cuneo in the Italian
In 1989, a second meeting took place in
Nîmes, France. It made it possible to present the
Cévenole experiment and it inaugurated the route " The Silk
Ways ". This route was the subject of several publications, from
which a guide of the Silk Ways appeared in 1993, with a second
edition in 1995. In 1990, the conference in Bursa, Turkey, made it
possible to give a progress report on the situation of silk in this
country. A programme of restoration and development of the
caravanserais was launched by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
It led in 1994 to the opening of the road of the caravanserais in
Iznik. Other tourist route projects were carried out. In 1991,
after a conference in Barcelona, Spain, giving a report on the
census of the places of silk in Spain, the Spanish route was
officially launched. Since then, the Spanish commission for silk
continued its research. The results were the subject of regular
meetings, and the 1994 Valencia meeting made it possible to connect
scientists and persons in charge of museums and collections of silk
trade. The proceedings of this conference were published.
In 1992, it was in Macclesfield in the United
Kingdom, close to Manchester, that the fifth conference took place.
This meeting enabled the presentation of completed work on
Macclesfield Heritage and Museum Centre and the official launching
of the English project. The English Commission proposed four
cultural routes of which that of Macclesfield is the most
successful. The various research and projects under development
have been the subject of many publications since 1984. In 1992, a
census of the textile mills of East Cheshire was undertaken
together with the Royal Commission of Historic Monuments. In 1993,
the sixth seminar that marked the launching of the Greek section of
the routes of the Council of Europe was held in Soufli and in the
Evros delta in Greece. Greece chose the map of an alternative route
combining a historical identity marker, the silk, and the quality
of the natural environment. Since then, a silk-worm breeding
establishment was restored and converted into a rural lodging.
Restorations of the silk Manufacture of Athens
(Metaxourgion) were undertaken in 1995, in order to transform the
whole area into a living centre. Greece plans to develop studies on
silk, to publish these results and to improve the co-ordination of
projects at national level. It projects to found a silk institute
in Soufli to support the rebirth of sericulture.
Finally, in 1994 the areas in the North and Centre
of Portugal accommodated the seventh conference on the cultural
routes of the Council of Europe, mainly centred on the role of silk
and textiles as structuring elements in regional economy. The
meeting was the springboard for the official launching of the
Portuguese silk route, centred on an area strongly related to
sericulture. In 1995 the thematic expansion of the project to
cotton made it possible to include the cotton Valley of Ave and
Great Porto as a second route of the Portuguese project.
In 1996 a feasibility study was carried out
concerning the development of a cotton route in this Valley, with
an information centre inside the future museum of industry.
Restorations were undertaken on the site of Chacim, an old silk
mill developed as an archaeological site. A museum was set in
Macedo de Cavaleiros, an industrial museum is to in Porto,
envisaged to valorise the ethnographic museum of Mirandela. A
folder presenting the heritage and production related to silk was
published in 1996.
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