The Textile Museum in Washington, D.C. – A Brief History

According to dictionary.com, a textile is a “flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibers often referred to as thread or yarn.” Textiles have a long and rich history encompassing a myriad of uses including… floor coverings, of course!

The Textile Museum in our nation’s capital is the largest and most well-known museum of its kind in the United States. Its mission statement succinctly sums up the museum’s main objective which is to “[expand] public knowledge and appreciation ~ locally, nationally, and internationally ~ of the artistic merits and cultural importance of the world’s textiles.”

The museum was founded in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers who brought a personal collection of nearly 300 rugs and related textiles for the initial opening. Myers continued to expand on the inventory and by the time of his death in 1957, his modest collection had expanded exponentially encompassing unique and creative textiles from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Many of the textiles are widely considered exquisite pieces of art, singular and unmatched by any others.

During the height of activity in Myers’ lifetime, the museum garnered perhaps a few hundred visitors annually. Currently, it is considered one of the world’s leading specialized art museums and welcomes up to 35,000 visitors every year from across the globe. This momentum and popularity is due to Myers unfailing eye for material and design motifs. He was particularly fond of classical silk textiles and carpets from Turkey, Iran, and India. The striking patterns and vibrant colors were especially appealing; not only to Myers, but all those who gazed upon these beautiful pieces.

Myers subsequently expanded his search to include textiles from Egypt, Peru and Central and South America. By the time the museum opened, Myers was considered a foremost authority on textile construction and art. The museum now boasts well over 18,000 textiles and is considered to hold one of the most significant collections in the world.

So, if you’re planning a trip to our capital this summer, consider visiting The Textile Museum. You won’t be disappointed!