ATHM Blog

Another Beginning

Sorry to be so long between entries. The core design team has been busily making last minute changes to both the building and exhibit designs while we waited for the red tape procedures to be carried out. Finally we were graced with building permits from the City of Lowell and we were on our way.

Wednesday August 20th marked another beginning to the new era at the American Textile History, a rather physical beginning when Foley Carpentry of Quincy arrived armed with sledge hammers and Sawzall’s and a hungry dumpster. What a difference 24 hours can make. Take a look at the “before” and “after” pictures taken from pretty much the same spot. Not bad progress! Keep and eye on the website for progress updates. It sure is nice to be dealing with concrete instead of paper!

“before” and “after”
after
before

before

before

before

 

NEW BEGINNINGS!

YES IT’S TRUE . NEW THINGS are happening all around us, and we expect that will be the case in the exciting months to come. New affiliations, new canal walks, new mascots, new building buzz, and more!

EXCITING NEWS arrived on the day of our Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees. ATHM has become an Affiliate of the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION , and this prestigious accord will allow us to collaborate on a number of different levels in association with the Smithsonian Institution. We are eager to expand our relationship with such an esteemed institution which, like us, holds a great collection of artifacts of great historical significance. America is a great country, and we are pleased to be telling stories of its history in association with the Smithsonian Institution.

At the Board meeting, the leaders of CAMPAIGN for the AMERICAN TEXTILE HISTORY MUSEUM were honored for their outstanding work in guiding the campaign to 97.5% of its goal. We have now raised $3.75 million of the $3.9 million ($4.75 million of $4.9 million when the Maine Community Foundation’s $1 million match is included). Pictured left to right are campaign co-chair Ruth Ward, Marisa Tescione Fagan of the Advancement Department, Linda Carpenter, Advancement Director, Campaign Co-chair and Board of Trustees Chairman Ken McAvoy, and yours truly, ATHM President Jim Coleman. Also recognized were honorary chairs Ed Stevens and Sam Rogers.

Pictured left to right are campaign co-chair Ruth Ward, Marisa Tescione Fagan of the Advancement Department, Linda Carpenter, Advancement Director, Campaign Co-chair and Board of Trustees Chairman Ken McAvoy, and yours truly, ATHM President Jim Coleman.

Pictured left to right are campaign co-chair Ruth Ward, Marisa Tescione Fagan of the Advancement Department, Linda Carpenter, Advancement Director, Campaign Co-chair and Board of Trustees Chairman Ken McAvoy, and yours truly, ATHM President Jim Coleman.

THE BIDS ARE IN! Yes, the bids are in from the 3 remaining general contractors who placed bids on the building phase of the construction for the renovated core exhibit, TEXTILE REVOLUTION – AN EXPLORATION THROUGH SPACE AND TIME . Bid due diligence is now underway, which will shortly lead to contractor selection and construction. I’m already practicing heaving my sledge hammer for the demo phase!

ATHM has been interviewing candidates for the position of Museum Mascot . I was so in awe of this happy go lucky sheep’s skills of persuasiveness, she won the job on the spot. The only problem is that since the sheep can only say baaaaaaaaaaaa, we don’t know her name. Consequently the search is underway to name our new best friend. If you’ve got an idea, e-mail me at jcoleman@athm.org.

Name our new best friend

Name our new best friend

ANOTHER NEW THING IS the construction taking place directly outside my window

My office overlooks the WESTERN CANAL looking to the South, and looking to the East the confluence of the WESTERN, PAWTUCKET, HAMILTON, and MIDDLESEX canals at the SWAMP LOCKS. The NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK and the CITY of LOWELL are building a new canal walk along the WESTERN CANAL. A few pictures follow, which show the work along the canal that travels into the ACRE neighborhood. The bridge being removed used to be part of WORTHEN St. which ran through what is now the parking lot of ATHM.

New canal walk along the western canal

New canal walk along the western canal

Construction taking place

Construction taking place

Construction taking place

Construction taking place

Did you know?

I spent 30 years in the textile business and I thought I new a lot about textiles. I do. I did know that recycled plastic soda and water bottles were chopped up, cleaned and born anew as polyester fleece type garments and other textile products. Check it out at this link.

http://www.history.com/media.do?id=bone … ction=clip

Do you know what dollar bills are made from? 75% cotton and 25% linen. The funny thing is that until just a short while ago the 75% cotton came from the cutting scraps of the process to make denim jeans. The company that makes the paper for US currency (Crane & Co.in Dalton, MA) has to stop using the cuttings because of another miricle of the textile industry, SPANDEX! Now would’nt you think our governement would want a dollar bill that could be stretched in new ways? I guess not. Check it out at the following link. Scroll down to “Currency Production”

http://www.history.com/minisite.do?cont … i_id=52493

CELEBRATING THOSE WHO LOVE TEXTILE HISTORY

One of the most special events of the year at the American Textile History Museum took place Friday evening March 28th at the Museum’s Gazebo Cafe, the 2008 President’s Dinner.

The evening was a celebration to honor those special supporters of the Museum who give so much because they deeply believe in the importance of textile history and what ATHM represents.

These caring people unselfishly give their time, their money and their spirit to perpetuate what began more than 200 years ago with revolutionary Americans.

They are in many respects the hearts and the souls of textiles. The Museum would not exist without them. We thank them and celebrate them.

Bill Gannett, Karl Spilhaus and Les Regenbogen

Bill Gannett, Karl Spilhaus and Les Regenbogen

Sue Bunker, Fred Ward and Jane Dumais

Sue Bunker, Fred Ward and Jane Dumais

Chris Rogers and Mary Stevens

Chris Rogers and Mary Stevens

Peggy Regenbogen and Connie Spilhaus

Peggy Regenbogen and Connie Spilhaus

David Kroneberg, Bill Gannett and Craig Huff

David Kroneberg, Bill Gannett and Craig Huff

John and Catherine Goodwin

John and Catherine Goodwin

Patrick & Kathleen Connerty

Patrick & Kathleen Connerty

Nancy & Mike Oldershaw with Ruth Ward

Nancy & Mike Oldershaw with Ruth Ward

Barbara Thun and Larry Ardito

Barbara Thun and Larry Ardito

Kim and Ted Anderson

Kim and Ted Anderson

Marisa Fagan Tescione, Linda Carpenter and Karen Herbaugh

Marisa Fagan Tescione, Linda Carpenter and Karen Herbaugh

Peg Coleman, Sue Bunker and Franki Kelly

Peg Coleman, Sue Bunker and Franki Kelly

Jim Coleman and Leonard Smith share a story

Jim Coleman and Leonard Smith share a story

Michael & Anne Putziger

Michael & Anne Putziger

Win and Pauline Duke

Win and Pauline Duke

Ed and Andy Stevens

Ed and Andy Stevens

Richard and Jane Dumais

Richard and Jane Dumais

Ann Huff and Nancy Gannett

Ann Huff and Nancy Gannett

David and Barbara Thun

David and Barbara Thun

Sam Rogers receives the Presidents Award for his long and unwavering support to the Museum

Sam Rogers receives the Presidents Award for his long and unwavering support to the Museum

Jim Coleman a lighter moment

Jim Coleman a lighter moment

Nina Rogers, Sam Rogers, Chris Rogers and Jim Coleman celebrate Sam's award

Nina Rogers, Sam Rogers, Chris Rogers and Jim Coleman celebrate Sam's award

THANK YOU SAM FOR YOUR MORE THAN 39 YEARS OF ENTHUSIASM, LEADERSHIP AND GENEROSITY.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR UNWAVERING SUPPORT.

Comments

BETTY RAMSEY
Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 01:11 PM

Thank you for letting us see what our boys are working at on the Lowell end of your project. It all makes it easier for us to understand the work they are doing for you. Hopefully, next year we can visit the Carolina spot.

Good luck!!
Hass & bette Ramsey

 

HARRIE SCHOOTS
Monday, March 24, 2008, 03:54 PM

Great Jim! This blog is the missing link, just what we need to follow along in the Museum’s progress to the future. I’ll be sure to share it with my contact list…Good Luck!

Best Regards,
Harrie

 

JOHN S
Friday, March 21, 2008, 11:20 AM

I was glad to read that you guys are not closing down but will open up renewed this summer. I was there for a couple of shows and though they were great, especially Dianas dresses. I went through the main exhibit a couple of times and while it was nice I didn’t feel any need to go back as it was the same. It sounds llike things will be different when you open again. What’s going to happen with the Gazebo?I liked that too.

John S Concord, MA

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY?

Ah spring, now fully one week into spring and as we look out our window here in Lowell at the Swamp Locks.

Swamp Locks

Swamp Locks

we see that Old Man Winter isn’t quite ready to give up yet. That’s not really a problem as we move from our wonderfully heated houses into our warm cars to our comfortable offices but to try to imagine what it was like back in the days when the canal system was built. A very different story. A remarkable achievement!

The canal system evolved from its beginnings in 1821, when the Boston Associates purchased the old Pawtucket transportation canal in what was then East Chelmsford. They initially used the Pawtucket as a feeder canal to channel water into new power canals. Just above Swamp Locks, the Merrimack, Western, and Hamilton canals branched off, taking water to the Merrimack, Lowell, Tremont, Suffolk, Lawrence, Hamilton, and Appleton mills. That’s exactly where our Museum sits just above the Swamp Locks looking at the merging of those 3 canals.

While their achievements were remarkable we believe our will be too. The core of our design team (the germs) marches on to our design finish line and soon it will be hammers, nails, lights, cameras and action. Here we are (top to bottom right side first) Director of Interpretation Diane Fagan Affleck, Textile Curator Karen Herbaugh, Director of Education Sue Bunker, Museum teacher Kathy Hirbour, yours truly Museum Director/President Jim Coleman, Museum Design Architect Doug Mund and Development Director Linda Carpenter. The discussion taking place at this time centered on special sections around the Museum with interactives geared for 3 to 8 year olds.

Here we are (top to bottom right side first) Director of Interpretation Diane Fagan Affleck, Textile Curator Karen Herbaugh, Director of Education Sue Bunker, Museum teacher Kathy Hirbour, yours truly Museum Director/President Jim Coleman, Museum Design Architect Doug Mund and Development Director Linda Carpenter

Here we are (top to bottom right side first) Director of Interpretation Diane Fagan Affleck, Textile Curator Karen Herbaugh, Director of Education Sue Bunker, Museum teacher Kathy Hirbour, yours truly Museum Director/President Jim Coleman, Museum Design Architect Doug Mund and Development Director Linda Carpenter

Just after the meeting we all checked out the conservation work being carried out by conservator Deborah Bede

Conservator Deborah Bede

Conservator Deborah Bede

While Doug Mund and Karen Herbaugh took a close up look at one of the garments under preparation for the renovated exhibit

Doug Mund and Karen Herbaugh

Doug Mund and Karen Herbaugh

While the garments are being prepared for the exhibit they will be specially displayed this evening during our Presidents Dinner which honors our most steadfast supporters. A close up look at some of these garments shows a very dapper waistcoat/vest from the early 19th century.

Dapper waistcoat/vest from the early 19th century

Dapper waistcoat/vest from the early 19th century

A green & black ribbed silk dress from about 1910

A green & black ribbed silk dress from about 1910

and a snappy looking exercise suit from about 1920. I bet you can just picture yourself working out in it. Remember there was no Lycra/Spandex back then!

Workout Suit

Workout Suit

To show that it’s not all work and no play the gang had a surprise shower for Stephanie Hebert who will leave us in not so long a time to have her first child. Stephanie has been working on a variety of textile projects in her time here and plans to rejoin us in a few months as our part time registrar.

Surprise shower for Stephanie Hebert

Surprise shower for Stephanie Hebert

Finally to show that while we do have fun we do work very hard for this Museum and the things it represents, Diane Fagan Affleck collapses after another long day working to see that the Museum does reach its goals.

Dianes Day is Done

Dianes Day is Done

Progress

Progress: : a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal)

Yes that’s what is taking place here at ATHM. We have our objective in sight and we are moving forward to it.
Some examples:

Last fall we opened up this long covered warehouse door in the back of the building.

Last fall we opened up this long covered warehouse door in the back of the building.

It was hidden behind the false wall of an exhibit on fashion from the 1880's. It located right next to the "office" pictured above. More on the office later.

It was hidden behind the false wall of an exhibit on fashion from the 1880's. It located right next to the "office" pictured above. More on the office later.

Outside the boys were laying a concrete pad in order that trucks & forklifts could access the new door as with build the new exhibit.

Outside the boys were laying a concrete pad in order that trucks & forklifts could access the new door as with build the new exhibit.

Here is a shot of the 10 year resting place of the 1926 Ford "Fordor" that was part of the old exhibit. The Fordor was sold to Al Cadrette and Lenny Smith, avid antique car collectors from Townsend, MA

Here is a shot of the 10 year resting place of the 1926 Ford "Fordor" that was part of the old exhibit. The Fordor was sold to Al Cadrette and Lenny Smith, avid antique car collectors from Townsend, MA

A wall that used to separate TIA's main exhibit from the weave shed was demolished and the car had to be twisted & slid off of its exhibit perch before it could be rolled through the second floor offices of the Lowell Sun

A wall that used to separate TIA's main exhibit from the weave shed was demolished and the car had to be twisted & slid off of its exhibit perch before it could be rolled through the second floor offices of the Lowell Sun

Once on the freight elevator it was down a half a flight and is shown here making its final departure from ATHM. That's Lenny driving and Al trying to apply some breaking i guess.

Once on the freight elevator it was down a half a flight and is shown here making its final departure from ATHM. That's Lenny driving and Al trying to apply some breaking i guess.

 

Ramsey Mechanical riggers Ross Ramsey (facing away) Gary Piniero (rear left) and Rob Ramsey (right) work on removing the Whitin Machine Company roving frame that was located in the "mirror" room along with a Woonsocket Machine Company spinning frame.

Ramsey Mechanical riggers Ross Ramsey (facing away) Gary Piniero (rear left) and Rob Ramsey (right) work on removing the Whitin Machine Company roving frame that was located in the "mirror" room along with a Woonsocket Machine Company spinning frame.

Both machines were carefully relocated to Franklinville, NC along with other equipment removed from the exhibit. The space previously occupied by the “mirror” room will house a section of the small changing gallery located on the second floor as well as some of the modern textiles planned for the exhibit.

Here is one of the 23 bells known to exist that was cast by Revere & Sons during Paul Revere's personal involvement at the foundry.

Here is one of the 23 bells known to exist that was cast by Revere & Sons during Paul Revere's personal involvement at the foundry.

Revere cast his first bell in 1792, for his own church, the Second Church of Boston. He cast his last bell in 1811 when at age 76 when he ended his active partnership in the family firm. This bell was cast in 206 years ago in 1802 and first resided at a church in Castine, ME. In 1831 the bell was moved from Castine to the tower of the Steven’s Mill in North Andover, MA where it stayed until 1961 at which time it was given to the Museum. The bell will find a new home in the renovated exhibit where Museum patrons will be able to touch it perhaps rubbing off some good luck.

The space above was previously known as the 1870's room.
The space above was previously known as the 1870’s room.

While it has not formally been renamed it is currently been dubbed the technology room. The plan for this room is to locate many different types of textile machinery and make them operable. Staff will give an operational demonstration of each machine. Also planned are animations of the fast working parts of the machines so patrons can get a clear idea of what makes them tick. A new feature of the room will be the ability to walk in and get a much closer view. You can see the silver duct tape on the floor which marks out part of this new walk in feature.

Keep your eyes on the website and blog as we soon will launch into full construction mode.

Yes!
Progress!
Jim Coleman

ATHM in Lowell News

The Following appeared in the Lowell Sun Letters to the Editor section on March 12, 2008 it is followed by my comments.

A fresh start for Textile Museum

That the Gazebo restaurant is forced to shut down is a pity but not surprising given that many thought it was already closed, along with the American Textile History Museum. The one institution that is a cornerstone of Lowell’s historical offerings is vanishing from the public’s mind and concern.

A small core of civic-minded individuals has interested itself in the Museum’s future, but real community involvement seems minimal.

One regrets that the museum is not owned by the city. It could hire the specialists to manage it, encourage close relationships with local artisans, with schools, universities and private business while promoting it to historians here and abroad as a unique part of American and textile-industry heritage. Funding is always a problem, but Lowell leaders are showing increasing expertise in marketing the city’s offerings.

Many Lowellians have familial ties to the textile industry and were appreciative of the talent and vision of those who developed the museum collections. Foreign and out-of-state visitors were especially impressed. Let’s hope 2008 will see a fresh start for the museum and it will regain a central place of prominence in Lowell.

F. NOWAK

Lowell

A fresh start for the Textile Museum

Last week F. Novak wrote about the American Textile History Museum, and we are grateful for his/her appreciation of the importance of the Museum and all it represents. While there was a relatively small core of local civic mindedness at ATHM when I arrived in January of 2006, that core of advocate trustees, advisors and supporters has steadily grown as we actively reach out to the community and beyond. We are working conscientiously to improve our cooperative relationships with the City of Lowell, our sister cultural institutions, local artisans, schools and universities, as well as the broader public and private sectors. While our Museum has been “closed” to the public, we have been working on dramatic renovations to our exhibits and facilities. These renovations will provide a leap into the 21st century and an opportunity to look through the eyes of tomorrow. Our updated exhibits are scheduled to re-open this coming August and will include changing gallery space in which we will encourage local content. Our collections are simply incredible, and we are excited about the opportunity to use these treasured artifacts as well as stories of the past to chronicle the evolution of American textiles. Equally exciting are the textiles of today, which have woven themselves into our lives in more ways than most folks know. Some of those remarkable modern textiles are produced right here in Lowell. While we’re sorry to keep people waiting, we know that good things come to those who wait. Yes, it is true that we can use all the support we can gather. We are convinced the citizens of Lowell appreciate the fact that we are here and will be in the midst of that support.

Jim Coleman
President & CEO
American Textile History Museum

A TEXTILE JOURNEY

Where to start? 1793? 2007? 1960? 2006? Somewhere in between? Let’s start with 2006 and jump around from there.

My name is Jim Coleman

Jim Coleman

Jim Coleman

and I am the President & CEO of the American Textile History Museum which is conveniently located in Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell was the first city to be built around industry and textiles was THE industry. The city of Lowell led the America into the industrial revolution.
When I arrived here on January 17, 2006 I had exactly zero experience in the museum field, let alone being named the director of one. Fortunately my lack of museum experience did not immediately disqualify me–in fact, it may have helped in my interview with the trustees. You see I came here with 33+ years of business management experience in the textile trade (even though I was the ripe old age of 53) The trustees seemed to be looking for someone with business experience as the museum had been through some tough times and the dark clouds on the horizon still seemed ominous.

The museum had experienced a significant erosion of its endowment in preceding years, the former director had just resigned, and the trustees had 3 options on the table at the December 2005 Board meeting. Option 1 was to close down and disperse the collections; option 2 meant finding a complimenting partner and strike a deal with them and unlikely option 3 was to come up with a new formula for success and keep the museum in Lowell. The trustees had signed a letter of intent to sell approximately half of the building to a local developer with the funds going to bolster the endowment. The development plan was to bring in some new neighbors one being the Lowell Sun newspaper staff and the others up to 45 owners of residential condominiums. While the funds for the endowment were nice it came with some complications. It required us to find new homes for objects and other things residing in the 80,000 square feet we sold and it meant trying to operate a museum in the midst of construction. A few jobs while trying to find the best long term solution for the museum.

Wow, a few jobs to do! Well I have this big burley Scottish friend who worked with me in my prior textile life. He used to say something to me each and every night when he left factory. For a long time I didn’t know what he said because he said it so fast and said it in the lovely Scottish brogue. Until I got to know him well enough I was afraid to ask him what he was saying until one day I got up the courage and asked, “Albert what is that you say to me each night when you leave?” With the usual wee twinkle in his eye he said, “Just a job, Jim.” He went on to explain that while he’d been working from the bonnie age of 14 part of it meant work ethic, that you’re there to do your job to the best of your abilities and you do it. The other part was remembering that it is “just a job” and while you do your best, you’re not superhuman and there are things that are more important than your job. It’s for you to decide what they are.

One of the other great lessons I learned in my textile life, in fact very early on, was what often the best answer to a question. I learned this one down in Woonsocket, RI from my mentor Karl Switzer. He and Albert were demanding but fair people and taught me a great deal about business and other things, maybe it was part of my “museum” education after all. So the best answer to that question? I think it’s down below.

So aside from dealing with the day-to-day activities I had to learn about this place and what it was all about. I begin my snooping around (I usually like to start in the basement or the garage, you know typical male stuff) and I’m finding things and saying what the heck is this, what the heck is that? So of course I have to touch it to see if I can figure it out and sirens go off, lights start blinking, and the collections police roll in. “Ah what’s going on here? Ah hah, you were just touching it to get a better look.” Well it was time for lecture # 1 from General Diane Fagan Affleck, also known as the Director of Interpretation. I got off easy that day because it was my first offense but it was clear to me I was going to have problems.

My first 30+ years in the textile business were in the cashmere business and my job was to touch, touch, touch, and touch some more to perfect my touch. You see, the human fingers can discern the difference between 1 micron and my fingers had been highly trained to do so. Now the collections police were going to handcuff me and put sandpaper to my fingertips. Lord what have I got myself into? Just forget it, shake it off, time for lunch. So I went and got my comfort food, a tuna sandwich with lettuce & tomato on wheat, and settled into my office chair ready to have a power lunch. You know a multi-tasking lunch. .More sirens, more flashing lights. It was General Fagan Affleck again (affectionately known as the food Nazi) with “Ah Jim, you can’t be eating lunch in your office as it is against museum policy because if you happen to spill something on a collection item, that is a no no.” I had to do something! I had to make a stand!! I said “Diane, lets get one thing straight. I’m a coffee drinker and I need to drink my coffee at my desk or I can’t function. It’s either the coffee or me!!” I don’t know what happened but perhaps Diane saw some redeeming value in me and she bent the rules. Diane loves this place and will do anything that is in its best interest. I guess that included letting me drink coffee in my office.

One of the “options” the trustees would consider was staying in Lowell if we could formulate a plan to overcome the problems. One of the first things we did was to get all the staff together, invite a few outsiders, and brainstorm. The ideas were very good. What was crystal clear was that there was a tremendous amount of passion about this place and it was unmistakable that the group was willing to think outside of the box. Some of my ideas were kind of “out there” but I did feel we needed to bend if not break the mold if we really were going to change this place and move forward.

The group morphed into what became known as the “Germs”. Germs being short for germination of new ideas. The objective for this group was to come up with a plan to update and enliven the museum and take it forward into the 21st century. The germs are a very impressive bunch consisting of esteemed historians, educators, museum curators and other museum professionals, the dean of a college of textiles and internal staff. We started with a video of the fixed exhibit and a blank slate and we solicited any and all ideas they wished to provide. The responses were amazing!

Some of my own thoughts were that while there was a great foundation in the exhibits it needed serious updating, a heavy dose of interactivity and we needed to be sure it had broad appeal. While I’m more of a natural fiber man than most it is wrong that we had no synthetic fibers in the exhibit. Is a museum supposed to be fun Or is its only purpose to teach you about things from the past? Can we have our cake and eat it too? Can we be relevant and have fun being relevant?

Traditionally when we hear the word “textile” we think of our clothes or perhaps our bedding, curtains and upholstery. But that is the tip of the iceberg. Textiles are everywhere. Textiles have been to the moon and Mars. Have you? Textiles save and protect lives in so many different ways. Thoracic stents, cardiac support sacks, firemen turnout gear bio-hazard suits. What textiles do is simply mind blowing. Textile composite structures are here now and will become even more important in the future. The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s fuselage & wings are said to be constructed from more than 50% textile-based composites making the aircraft much lighter and saving more than 20% in fuel consumption. There are so many new and old stories to tell. The great thing is we’re destined to get new material each day as the imagination of textile engineers and scientists create new products crossing traditional boundaries. I am excited about our opportunities–all of us here are excited.

I feel as if we are at the tip of an iceberg, just the tip. Our world renowned collections, the stories of the past, these visions of the future It is great to have the opportunity we have, to share all we have with you. To make it interesting, interactive and fun. I can hardly wait!

Oh yes that thing I learned back in my early days is when asked a question and where you don’t know the answer the smartest thing is to say “I don’t know. Let me find out. I’ve seen so many people over the years wanting to impress they give you some contrived answer. Doing that can only come back to bite you.