Arts of Asia
The Textile Museum
Washington D.C.: January-February 1996
The Journal of the Textile Museum is a useful reference for students and collectors, covering a broad range of subjects related to research on textiles.
This particular volume is noteworthy for several articles. The first, “Legacy of Collector George Hewitt Myers,” by Carol Bier, discusses the establishment of The Textile Museum in 1925, preceding the National Gallery of Art that was established in 1941. Myers always challenged his Board to consider the wisdom and benefit of utilizing historical collections to inspire contemporary artists and designers, as evidenced by the Museum’s active role in exhibitions, research and licensing. “Always perceptive of historical textiles as indicators of cultural change, Geroge Hewitt Myers knew that to study textiles was to learn about the world. With that understanding he laid the intellectual foundation that continues to sustain the institution…” (64)
The second, “Southeast Asian Textiles at The Textile Museum,” by Mattiebelle Gittinger, discusses the role of collector George Hewitt Myers in collecting Southeast Asian textiles. She makes the point that only recently has Southeast Asia been recognized as a major textile producing area of the world, despite the early efforts of a few Dutch scholars in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She notes that the intent of most of the early acquisitions of textiles from this region was as ethnographic specimens not as textile art. “Admittedly a few individuals who had access to this material recognized its artistic value [A.K. Coomaraswamy at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston as well as a number of individuals in the Netherlands], but there was not the swell of interest that would eventually grow during the last half of the twentieth century to culminate in the textile collecting frenzy of the 1980s.” (94) Gittinger therefore treats Myers generously since he collected a few Indonesian textiles as textile art in 1931 and 1943 (purchases from Colin McPhee) and again between 1953 and 1957 (from Laurens Langewis, a Dutch collector). At this time, there was not a literature base on these textiles to serve as a guide to collection building. The remainder of the article highlights textiles from the collection.
The third, “Caring for Textiles,” by Sara Wolf, Director of Conservation and Collection at The Textile Museum, provides extremely useful advice for the collector on: properties of textile fibers, deterioration of textiles, care and maintenance of textile collections, and proper storage and display. One particular fact, that some of the worst deterioration occurs when wood, paper and cardboard are used improperly in display and storage, has already led me to reconsider my gallery design. Addresses of archival suppliers in the United States are included.