D.C.’s Newest Museum Prepares to Make Debut
The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum Opens Sprint 2015
by the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum staff
On March 21, Washington, D.C.’s newest cultural institution opened its doors to the public as the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.
The new museum complex combines the renovation of the historic Woodhull House, which now showcases the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection and Center for National Capital Area Studies, with a newly constructed space that includes a dedicated area for The Textile Museum, the Arthur D. Jenkins Library and the museum shop. The opening marks the final step of a nearly three-year integration process that brought the 90-year-old Textile Museum and Washingtoniana Collection to GW’s campus.
The George Washington University first announced that The Textile Museum would join its campus in 2011. Since then, the university built a 53,000-square-foot LEED Gold-certified museum complex that will serve as an arts center on campus. The new complex, the largest university museum in the District of Columbia, includes 46,000 square feet of newly constructed museum and exhibition space attached to the 7,000-square-foot renovated Woodhull house. The cus- tom-built museum will display The Textile Museum’s globally recognized collections of more than 19,000 textiles and related objects, and pieces owned by the university, including the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection of 1,000 artifacts documenting the history of Washington, D.C.
“As a curator, I’m extremely excited about the spaciousness of the galleries—we have so many more feet than we’ve ever had before, so we’re going to be able to have large exhibitions and show off even more textiles,” said museum curator Lee Talbot.
An auxiliary conservation and collections resource center has also been built on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus for the long-term protection, study, access, and care of the museum’s collections. The LEED Silver-certified, 22,000-square-foot facility will be home to the museum’s artifacts.
Founded in 1925, The Textile Museum is an international center for the exhibition, study, collection, and preservation of the textile arts. Its collections include some of the world’s finest examples of rugs and textiles from the Near East, Central Asia, East and Southeast Asia, Africa and the indigenous cultures of the Americas.
The spring 2015 opening will feature three exhibitions. The largest exhibition in Textile Museum history, Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories, will unite objects from across cultures to explore expressions of individual, cultural, political, spiritual, and social identity throughout the ages. It celebrates both The Textile Museum’s new home and its world-renowned collections, which include textiles dating from 3000 B.C. to the present.
“This exhibition will present some of the greatest treasures from The Textile Museum’s permanent collections, representing more than 2,000 years of human history, while also emphasizing the ongoing relevance of textiles in our daily lives,” said Mr. Talbot.
Unraveling Identity provides a compelling platform to introduce the museum’s collections—their scope, artistic excellence, and scholarly and historical significance—to the university community and first-time visitors with more than 100 textiles and related objects spanning five continents.
The textile exhibition joins two historical exhibitions curated from the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. Seat of Empire: Planning Washington, uses historical maps and related images to tell the story of the early experiment in urban design that shaped the landscape of Washington, D.C. The Civil War and the Making of Modern Washington tracks the city’s evolution from the beginning of the war through Reconstruction through maps, prints and illustrations of the federal buildings, barracks, hospitals, hotels, and markets that served a burgeoning population.
Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories will be on view until Aug. 24 and both Seat of Empire: Planning Washington, 1790– 1801 and The Civil War and the Making of Modern Washington will be on view until Oct. 15.