Hearing America’s Story

 

At the American Textile History Museum, our mission is to tell America’s story through the art, science, and history of textiles. As a visitor, you run across many instances of our mission throughout the Museum. The lunchboxes in the Industrial Revolution display tell you what it was like to work at one of the many local textile mills. Just open a lid and you’ll hear about the long hours, the machinery, and the relationships formed. The video by the Cessna airplane tells us about the important role women in Lowell played to keep soldiers safe in World War II. The signs throughout the exhibit tell us that textiles exist everywhere. Our special exhibitions also tell a new aspect of America’s story, whether it’s an accessory to a stylish outfit, or a reflection on what it’s like coming to America for the first time.

As a staff member, what’s more interesting to me than telling America’s story is hearing it! On occasion, I sit at the front desk to give our receptionist a well-deserved break. When I’m covering the desk, I like to ask our incoming visitors how they heard about us. Many reply that it was through word-of-mouth, but many also mention how they used to work in the mills or knew somebody who did. The outgoing visitors often give excellent reviews of the Museum, and tell me that they will bring their relatives who used to work in the mills. It’s always rewarding to know that our visitors are connecting so personally to the stories we tell.

Outside of the Museum, my ears are still open to America’s story. After my uncle-in-law learned that I work at the Museum, he told me about when he owned a silk mill. Although my side of the family was not directly involved in the textile industry, many relatives tell me what an excellent seamstress my great-grandmother was. Every outfit she made has a different story to tell, and I like hearing each one. These connections to textiles don’t come up in daily conversation, but it’s amazing how much impact they had (and continue to have!) in our lives.

While working at the Museum, I’ve learned that textiles are everywhere. So are their stories. Do you have any textile tales to tell?

Maren Caulfield
Coordinator of Membership & Development

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