What is the role of a Textile Museum? PDF  | Print |  E-mail

planter TMC

On Tuesday June 15 2010  I dropped by the Textile Museum of Canada at 55 Centre Street (behind Nathan Phillips Square) to check out the after math of the crochet attack the night before their annual " More then Just Yardage Sale" planter seen from street.

On the opening night of “Battleground: War Rugs from Afghanistan” Apr 23, 2008, at the Textile Museum of Canada [incorporated in 1975 as the Canadian Museum of Carpets and Textiles], Max Allen curator of the exhibition and founding director of the TMC suggested that it would be nice to repatriate these rugs to the Textile Museum in Kabul, Afghanistan -- but inappropriate given the current state of affairs. He mused instead that it would be nice for an Afghani sitting in a cyber café in Kabul to go online and see these rugs as they are catalogued, preserved and accessible to researchers and curators. He also   mentioned he had acquired several of them on E-Bay.  On Wednesday, November 10, again at the TMC, I had the opportunity to hear an introductory talk by Ana Paula Fuentes, the director of Museo Textile de Oaxaca, Mexico.   Among other things, she described the role the museum plays for and with local, regional and national artisans by providing them access to the collections and the research being done, as well as providing   workshops for them with international artisans working in various methods.  They carry the products in the museum gift shop, provide a weekly market place, and bring the museum audience to the maker’s studios where their processes can be seen in-situ. This museum is dictated to giving new life to lost traditions and supporting the continuance of current practice.   As Ana Paula Fuentes noted, “…they have the skill, but accessing good materials proves difficult.”     The museum is also trying to provide those also. These efforts of the Oaxaca textile museum strike me as extraordinary.

 shawl lecture

Wed. Feb. 24 / 2010 Natalia Nekrassova giving a talk about Fashionably Wrapped: The Influence of Kashmir Shawls to members of the Toronto Guild of Spinners and Weavers ( of which i am a member)

While planning the “Collections” issue of fibreQUARTERLY, I had planned to interview the directors of three distinctly different “textile Museums’ in Canada.  These directors and these museums were chosen to represent different aspects of the state of textile museums in Canada.  Michael Rikley-Lancaster is the director of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum which is focused on the history of the Canadian Textile Industry and is located in the administration building of the former Rosamond Woollen Company in Almonte, Ontario. Constructed in 1867 and designated a National Historic Site. [The former mill has been converted into Condominiums a fate that has fallen to many former Mills]

MVTM history

No. 1 Mill, Almonte Ontario: The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum is located in the former office space of the Rosamond Woollen Company in Almonte, Ontario. it was just one of the many Mills in and round the Mississippi River Valley outside of Ottawa Ontario.
Constructed in 1867 it is now a National Historic Site of Canada.

Suzanne Chabot is the general director of the Museum of Costume and Textile of Quebec in Laval Québec. Located in the Marsil House, which was constructed in 1750 and recognized as a Historical monument in 1974, it opened as Museums Marsil in 1979. Then it was a more of an historical house site with artifacts from per and post confederation (1867) with a large collection of domestic textiles and costumes. In 1987 it was accredited by the Department of Cultural Affairs and provide with an annual grant that contributes to the achievement of exhibitions and activities. In 1992 it changed its name and primary focus and has built on its textile holding since then it presents contemporary textile work along with historical costume and promotes the history of Quebec Fashion design.    


the gang of textile people


On Thursday September 16, 2010 at the TMC Patrick Frey of Pierre Frey Paris told a story of a family business started by his father and the joy of working with his own sons. He then  presented a history of textile production in France from the time of Louie XIV "the Sun King" who set about to break the Italian hold on fine textile production. sponsoring silk weaving and attracting textile printers and supported the developments in Toile printing process. Pierre Frey Paris has a large archive of representing this history.  The evening was introduced Diego Marin of Primavera who are presenting this lecture series and Lynda Reeves (who is an Honorary Trustee of the Textile Museum of Canada needs no introduction to fans of Canadian House and Garden Television, etc etc. ) pictured here with Patrick Frey to her left and his son Pierre Frey to her right.[ photo by Joe Lewis ]

As of yet, these two museum directors have not been interviewed; however, I was successful in locating Dr. Shauna McCabe (a distinguished curator, arts administrator, and professor of visual arts)  who became the Executive Director of the Textile Museum of Canada in the summer 2010. I met her for the first time 10 weeks into her job. Having established contact and requested  time for an interview prior to our meeting, she immediately suggested that I come up with a survey that she could pass on to Lolan Sipan, the director of the Kurdish Textile Museum in Erbil, Kurdistan, with whom she  is currently corresponding. That suggestion stopped me in my tracks.   The idea was both brilliant and completely undoable -- or so it seemed.

The Kurdish Textile Museum, established in 2004 by Lolan Sipan is like the Museo Textile de Oaxaca in that it uses the collections to support artisans  in the continuation  of traditional processes. “The museum is much more than a collection of artifacts from the past as in every corner of the museum you will find Kurdish people working on looms, weaving, making felt, embroidering, etc. This is all part of what we call the ‘Weaving Project’, a U.S. Embassy funded initiative to revive traditional Kurdish textile skills. At the museum you will witness elderly tribal women weavers passing on their ancient skills to the younger generation, and you can even have a go yourself” (from the website).

richards beaded jacket

This is the back of one of Toronto artist Richard Preston's beaded Jacket. worn to the opening night of " Judy Chicago: When Woman Rule The world: 

Given that textile collections are part of many types of museums, including “living Museums” and historic sites, the role of an institution dedicated exclusively to the collecting, conserving/preserving, analyzing and exhibiting textiles in their many aspects remains flexible. Questions about what they do provide should provide and can provide to a general public, rather then academic audience, are interesting ones. But what precisely are they?

In order to open this question up I have created a facebook group to provide links to several of these Museums located in many parts of the world and pose the first question “Why do you go to a Textile Museum?”

The journey begins.

You can help develop a questioner by going to the What is a Textile Museum For? facebook page and add a question. 
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