Museum News

American Textile History Museum Honored For Unique Machine Collection

Historic collection recognized by American Society of Mechanical Engineers

(April 19, 2012, Lowell, MA) — A collection of early textile machines at the American Textile History Museum has been recognized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) for its historic significance to 19th century engineering and technology. 

“These textile machines and tools represent some of the most significant devices used during the 19th and 20th centuries,” according to a plaque presented by ASME at an April 11 ceremony at ATHM.  “They illustrate the transitions from human to mechanical power and from wood to metal construction that improved product quality, variety, and volume, while reducing costs.”
 
Jonathan Stevens, ATHM President and CEO, said the machinery collection reflects the incredible innovation and creativity that has revolutionized America.

American Textile History Museum Honored For Unique Machine Collection

Jonathan Stevens, President and CEO of the American Textile History Museum, accepts a plaque awarding ATHM the Heritage Collection Designation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. From left are Karl Spilhaus, ATHM Chairman of the Board of Trustees; Diane Fagan Affleck, ATHM curatorial consultant; Jonathan Stevens; Sally Gould, ATHM Director of Development; and Harry Armen, ASME Past President.

“We have a great collection of objects, but more than that, we have a great collection of ideas,” Stevens said. “It is through telling the stories of those objects and ideas in a manner that engages our audience that makes the Museum a national treasure.”

Depicting a bygone era in American industrialization, when workers toiled in mills stretching from Maine to the nation’s heartland, the treasured collection at the American Textile History Museum encompasses spinning jacks, cotton ginning machines, printers, and other artifacts, including a woolen card dating to circa 1825. The museum’s 11-harness woolen loom manufactured by M.A. Furbush & Son of Philadelphia is one of the oldest powered looms in existence in the United States.

“ASME recognizes the importance of this collection not only to academics and researchers, but to the country and the rest of the world,” said Harry Armen, ASME Past President, in presenting the award. “These are the machines that engineers and artisans created that were innovative and relevant to the needs of the day. These are ideas made into reality. Engineering accomplishments need to be preserved and made available for the public to see. But just as important, we need to tell the public that the seeds of innovation live here — that ideas live here.”

In all, the museum’s tool and machinery collection includes more than 300 major powered machines, which provide a significant historical interpretation of an industry that exerted great impact on mechanical engineering and American society in general.

Landmarks, sites and collections of historic importance to mechanical engineering are designated by ASME through its History and Heritage Landmarks Program. Landmark status indicates that the artifact, site or collection represents a significantstep forward in the evolution of mechanical engineering and is the best known example of its kind.

Nearly 250 landmarks have been designated by ASME since the program began in 1971.

About ATHM
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, tells America’s story through the art, history, and science of textiles. In addition to its core exhibition, Textile Revolution: An Exploration through Space and Time and rotating special exhibitions, ATHM holds the world’s largest and most important publicly held collections of tools, spinning wheels, hand looms, and early production machines, as well as more than five million pieces of textile prints, fabric samples, rolled textiles coverlets, and costumes.

About ASME
ASME helps the global engineering community develop solutions to real world challenges. Founded in 1880 as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME is a not-for-profit professional organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing and skill development across all engineering disciplines, while promoting the vital role of the engineer in society. ASME codes and standards, publications, conferences, continuing education and professional development programs provide a foundation for advancing technical knowledge and a safer world.

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