It is gratifying to see people come here and enjoy the experiences we’ve created. Younger children in the Weston Howland Textile Learning Center (TLC) enjoy playing dress up, simple weaving on a vertical loom, using cut outs to compose and assemble their own fashion dolls, or simply relaxing as their mom or dad reads them a delightful textile story. Older kids can be found at a traditional loom trying their hand on an intricate weaving pattern, learning about the recycling of textiles, or acting as a fashion designer at the computer. While taking advantage of these activities in the TLC, visitors note Camomile Hixon’s unique “sparkle” paintings. Ms. Hixon utilized glitter on canvas to create 14 life-size interpretations of paper dolls. This unusual art is a real treat for all!
If you’re a 12-year-old we’re likely to find you utilizing your creative side at the Roger Milliken Innovation Station, or perhaps at one of the exhibits in the modern section of Textile Revolution. Innovation Station (our newest exhibit) challenges you to create some new or improved product and then record a sales pitch for your invention on camera. Around the corner, you’ll learn how carbon fiber composites are replacing steel and other metals in things like bicycles, automobiles, and even the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Speaking of aircraft, hop aboard our Cessna Skyhawk and take control. We’re still trying to figure how we landed the Cessna where we did, but flying it sure is fun! Count or try to guess the number (hint: between 500 and 1,000!) of major league baseballs pinned to our baseball wall and answer the age old question: what do sheep and baseballs have in common?
We find most men fiddling with the lock in the Chace/Zopfi Textile Techniques Gallery. The gallery boasts 17 different types of textile machinery from warping to weaving, to knitting to bobbin winding, to braiding to yarn spinning, and so much more. Yes, the men (and many ladies) are anxious to get inside the exhibit and get a little grease on their fingers as they see how these machines really work.
The ladies tend to love the “Fitting In” gallery where curator Karen Herbaugh selected period clothing circa 1870 up to the 1950s. Within this exhibit she’s chosen several garments that have a “personal” story. These stories not only tell about the garment, but also the people who wore them. I know I’m always amazed at the section that contains ladies undergarments. I had no idea the ladies of yesteryear would wear all six of those garments at one time. Those poor ladies! By the way our Fitting In gallery is available for sponsorship, so if you would like a naming opportunity, contact Director of Advancement Linda Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, for those who appreciate the early history of textiles, there is plenty to experience in the Colonial period exhibits, which feature displays on flax/linen, wool, cotton, and silk. All of this, of course, was in play before powered machinery. In 1793, Samuel Slater kicked off the revolution and, from that point on, there has been no turning back. After Slater came Francis Cabot Lowell and his Boston Associates, development in Lowell, Lawrence, New England, and the South. Revolution after revolution.
This post would not be complete without mention of the High Style exhibit. Over the past several months I’ve seen so many groups come and be enchanted by 42 of Betsy Bloomingdale’s incredible gowns. One was worn at Princess Diana’s wedding, and some worn at her friends’ house. Did I mention that house was the White House and the friends were President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy?
There is a quote from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it they will come.” Somewhere in the back of my mind, that has been a guiding principle as we conceived and built Textile Revolution: An Exploration through Space and Time. We felt that if we built the right thing and made the right choices, people would come and find interest in the many aspects of textiles one never thinks about. We were right. People can see that textiles are more than the jeans you wear and the hat grandma knits. Textiles are EVERYWHERE! Our goal is to let four-year-olds see that, 12-year-olds discover that, the young adults/parents share that, and our empty nesters and octogenarians to experience the new and remember the old. If we do our job right, we believe textiles will have appeal across all age boundaries and provide the opportunity for interesting cultural understanding. We need to keep our exhibits fresh and make sure we convey our stories in a fun and interesting manner.
We are most grateful to you who have supported us and appreciate what we have done. THANK YOU! We are grateful that you value our presentations, but we are also grateful to receive your constructive comments. We learn from you how we can make this an even better place. Thank you for your support and thank you for choosing the American Textile History Museum.
President & CEO