Textile Museum

The Textile Museum is a private museum located in the Kalorama neighborhood of Northwest Washington, D.C., USA. The museum was founded by collector George Hewitt Myers in 1925 and is housed in two historic buildings: the Myers family home, designed by John Russell Pope, and an adjacent building designed by Waddy Wood.

The museum's mission is to expand public knowledge and appreciation – locally, nationally and internationally – of the artistic merits and cultural importance of the world’s textiles.

History

The Textile Museum was established in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, a rug and textile collector and connoisseur — and is still housed in the very building his family called home. At the time of its founding, the museum’s collection included 275 rugs and sixty related textiles, a collection Myers had built since the 1890s. Myers, a pioneer in the appreciation of handmade textiles as art and collectable objects, was drawn to the fact that non-Western textiles were the products of anonymous artists, and therefore not judged by the name or reputation of a particular person. The first objects that Myers purchased were late-nineteenth century Turkish and Caucasian village rugs, vibrant pieces with geometric designs and strong colors. As time passed and his finances allowed, Myers began to acquire a broader range of textiles, from Ottoman carpets to archeological textiles from Peru. By the second decade of his collecting, Myers methodically set out to create a comprehensive assemblage of non-Western textiles for the purpose of increasing public knowledge and appreciation of textile traditions worldwide. His intentions came to fruition in 1925, when he transformed his family home into public institution, and his private collection into a public one.

Designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope in 1913, the Myers home — now the first building that Textile Museum visitors enter — is a classical Georgian structure set in the beautiful Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C., best known for its numerous embassies. The museum’s galleries are housed in an adjacent building, which was designed by Washington architect Waddy Wood and purchased by Myers in 1915 for this purpose. Large gardens behind the buildings are open to the public during museum hours, and have provided an elegant setting for many social gatherings throughout the museum’s history.

In its early years, The Textile Museum was overseen by three trustees and a staff of one, and was open by appointment only. In 1928, the museum received its first major news article: "Capital Man has Private Museum," a story about Myers and the Textile Museum. In 1930, Myers traveled with his wife, Louise Stoddard Chase, to Egypt to acquire items for the collection, and the following year lent objects for the first time, for a London exhibition. Myers continued to play an active role in the arts society of Washington, D.C., founding the Independent Schools Art Instructors Association in 1936 and mingling with fellow aficionados and collectors at social engagements around the city. The first director of the Textile Museum, Rene Batigne, was brought on in 1953. By the time of Myers’ death in 1957, the museum staff included eleven individuals who worked with a collection of 3,500 textiles and 480 carpets from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Soon thereafter, in 1960, Myers’ wife died and the Myers residence was bequeathed to the Textile Museum. In the next decade, the museum established its conservation lab behind the museum’s buildings and launched its membership program with a base of 200 charter members. In the 1970s, The Textile Museum began offering Rug & Textile Appreciation Mornings — informal Saturday morning programs where collectors shared pieces from their own holdings; this traditional series continues to this day on a variety of topics. That same decade welcomed the opening of The Textile Museum Shop, hailed today as one of Washington, D.C.’s best museum stores, and the initiation of the museum’s volunteer docents program. In 1972, The Textile Museum’s Advisory Council was formed and the museum was awarded its first federal grant, given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1979, the museum closed temporarily for a major renovation project, including the implementation of climate control in the museum’s galleries, library, offices, and storage areas.

Today The Textile Museum’s renowned collection includes nearly 18,000 objects, dating from 3,000 B.C. to the present and representing indigenous peoples of every continent. The museum’s collection of Oriental carpets and its holdings of pre-Columbian Peruvian, Islamic, and Coptic textiles are among the finest in the world. The museum also has significant holdings of the textiles of India, China, and Africa, as well as twentieth-century ethnographic textiles made by indigenous peoples of Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, Bolivia and the American Southwest. Visitors to the Textile Museum can explore diverse textile traditions through changing exhibitions featuring objects from the museum’s collection as well as other institutional and private holdings. Exhibitions are designed both to present textiles as art and to place them in a cultural context, by exploring religious, social, artistic, economic and ecological aspects of the cultures in which they were created. A wide range of public programs for audiences of all ages and levels of experience, including gallery tours, lectures, family programs, The Textile Museum Fall Symposium, and others, complement the exhibitions.

Members of The Textile Museum hail from all fifty states and fifty-three countries. Craftspeople turn to the museum for inspiration, as do textile and fashion designers. Scholars come from around the world to research and study the collection and the holdings of the Arthur D. Jenkins Library of Textile Arts. Other museums turn to The Textile Museum for guidance on matters related to scholarship, conservation, collections management, and other projects. From its founding by a passionate and dedicated collector, The Textile Museum has become a worldwide leader in the field of textile arts, offering a unique approach to cultural understanding that is increasingly important in today’s global society.

Events

In 2010, The Textile Museum collaborated with The Pink Line Project to produce Hapi Hapi Hour, a closing party for its exhibition of avant-garde clothing, "Contemporary Japanese Fashion: The Mary Baskett Collection." To create an event that was as edgy as the exhibition, the museum lit up its secluded garden with lanterns; brought in a band, a DJ and a sushi and sake bar; and hosted tours of the exhibit.