Textile Museum Joins George Washington University

Yesterday was a historic one for rug and textile enthusiasts, world-wide, but especially for those of us in the Washington, DC area.

To repeat, the press release headline was:




Speaking in turn to nearly 300 attendees at a press conference on July 26, 2011, were  GW President Steve Knapp, 

Dr. Bruce Baganz, President of the Board of Trustees at The Textile Museum,

and  Ford W. Bell, President of the American Association of Museums,

who attended to express his organization’s optimism about this new association.

The link below takes you to the press package that indicates what they said.


There are links inside the press pack, and I encourage you to read it all.  There’s a lot of good information about this merger and the partners to it.

There was a different collection also treated in this press conference, since it will, in part, occupy the museum building GW will build primarily to house the TM.  Again, the press pack includes a page devoted to this second collection, but we need to say here that the new GW Museum will also house the Albert H. Small Washingtonia Collection of historical papers and documents.  Mr. Small has donated his collection and a lead gift of five million dollars.  Mr. Small was in the room and asked to take a bow.

The general reactions I saw and heard about this new association of the TM and GW were positive, even euphoric.  Most felt that the TM was finding it increasingly difficult to operate as an entirely independent entity.  This new association seems, especially, to solve its pressing facilities problems.

Bruce  said that he thought that this new association placed the TM on sound footing for as far ahead as we can currently see, and that may well be the case.

The misgivings I have heard, and I have a few myself, have to do with what The Textile Museum is likely to become, in say 20 years, as part of a large university.

 I admire and praise the imagination and hard work that went into this new and exciting arrangement.  It seems to me that the decision makers have addressed most of the serious issues the TM faces. It seems like the right decision now.

But I worked in big organizations most of my life, and I’m worried, just a little, now, about what the TM may gradually become. 

A new enabling of the strong feeling of need to attract new publics, which is already visibly impacting some exhibitions by taking things away from the TM’s glorious collection, and the pervasive pressures of a heavily academic environment, seem likely, long-term, to produce a very different kind of Textile Museum.

But this is probably a day for cheering, rather than for doubts. 

And as I said at the beginning, yesterday was a historic day for The Textile Museum, perhaps more historic than most of us yet realize.


R. John Howe

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