Gross-Siegharts is a small town with a population of just under 3,000, which lies north-west of Vienna in the Waldwiertel region, not far from the border with the Czech Republic. In the eighteenth century a landowner, Johann Christoph Ferdinand Grav von Mollentheim (1682-1742), encouraged textile manufacturing in the area, particularly the making of ribbons, tapes and laces, and brought in skilled workers from Swabia, Moravia and Saxony. The ribbons made in the area were sold by itinerant traders (Bandletragen) across the Habsburg Empire, and the area around Gross-Siegharts gained the name of the Bandlekrämerland (the region of ribbon sellers). Mollentheim was one of the founders of the East India Company in Ostend (then part of Habsburg Empire), but it was shut down through British pressure after two years. His ambitions in the Waldwiertel were not fully realised but ribbon manufacture did take root in the area and in the late nineteenth century there were six steam-powered mills in Gross-Siegharts. The industry still employed many people in the town in the 1980s, but the fall of the Iron Curtain led companies to shift production to areas in the east where wages were lower.
The Living Textile Museum, established in 1989, is located in a four-storey former factory. Its displays illustrate the textile industry in the area since the early eighteenth century. Several looms and other machines driven by line shafting are demonstrated, and the museum also arranges temporary exhibitions on topical themes. There is close co-operation with parallel projects on the Czech side of the border, and the museum at Gross-Siegharts is part of the Waldviertal Textilstrasse (textile road) which also includes museums at Veitra and Waidhofen and some of the remaining working textile factories.