The last time Ruth & I visited The Textile Museum it was in its founder’s family home. Now it has linked up with George Washington University and is in a new building on GWU’s campus at 701 21st Street. Four blocks from the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro stop, it’s a bit hard to get to but worth the effort. We were told about the move when we visited the old Textile Museum for the first time, but we didn’t get back to Washington, DC, for its official reopening in its new location in 2015. We saw two temporary shows and some pieces from The Textile Museum’s large collection. Neither show is now there but the dragons can still be seen. They are on a Pilar rug woven in China during the Qing Dynasty. When first made, this rug would have covered a column in a Buddhist temple.
The Textile Museum has a long history. It was founded by George Hewitt Myers, a material collector, in 1925. At the time he only had 275 rugs and 60 textile items. The museum’s collection has grown to 20,000+ and includes items from 3,000 BCE to the present. A much larger exhibit space was clearly needed, and the new museum is a 5 Compass venue for showing fabrics that once had practical uses but are now treasured for their artistic merit. Fabrics tell us about the people who made them and the culture they lived in. The man’s cap below is from Peru, is very, very old, and was made from the hair of a camelid, probably a llama or alpaca. It’s part of this museum’s permanent collection.
Myers’ residence, once known as the Tucker House, was in the Kalorama neighborhood close to many embassies. It was also a bit hard to get to and parking was a problem for visitors who didn’t arrive on the Metro. After the museum closed to move, the house was sold for $19 million. Its 29,000 square feet are currently being converted into one of the largest homes in our nation’s capital. The new owner was originally anonymous but that couldn’t last. You may have heard of him. Jeff Bezos.
Textiles reveal human ingenuity and show how people throughout the ages have created materials and advanced technology in the process. One sign in The Textile Museum explains why we should care about old cloth, “People created these fabrics to meet basic human needs, whether physical, aesthetic, social, or spiritual. Textiles clothe us, protect us, define our living spaces, and accompany our rituals and ceremonies.”
The Textile Museum’s new show opens on March 31, 2018, and will surely be popular. “Breaking News: Alexander Hamilton” will highlight, according to museum.gwu.edu, some “important life events and accomplishments” of this suddenly hot founding father.