Date of this Version
Published in The Social Fabric: Deep Local to Pan Global; Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 16th Biennial Symposium. Presented at Vancouver, BC, Canada; September 19 – 23, 2018. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/
This presentation discusses recent initiatives at Glenbow and Nickle Galleries that endeavor to provide new, radical levels of access to textile collections as a means to build community and affect creativity. While locking textiles away in environmentally controlled rooms and minimizing handling are useful methods for preservation, they are less effective in building vibrant communities or creating future relevance form museum collections. This paper, building on Hemming’s post-colonial textile theory, as well as Onciul’s theories on decolonizing engagement, challenge the apparent dichotomy between access and preservation. It argues that preservation without radical access, without shared community meaning making, without respecting the inherent kinship of museum textiles, is unattainable. This apparent stalemate is a relic of museums’ colonial past where institutional priorities have tended to exclude consideration of source communities’ needs. With textile collections, their physical well-being has been prioritized over their ongoing relationships with cultural groups. The concept of radicalizing access is an approach that both the Nickle Galleries and Glenbow are exploring in order to transform their relationships with the communities they serve. Schmidt will discuss how Glenbow is taking responsibility for previously stripping culture from Indigenous people and how connecting community members with textile collections is affecting reconciliation. A recent project involves connecting Indigenous foster children with textiles, enhancing their awareness and experience of Indigenous Culture. Hardy will discuss ongoing teaching efforts with the Nickle’s Afghan textiles, enhancing awareness of refugee’s experiences of war. Other initiatives involve connecting artists and the Nickle’s textile collections, fostering new creative research. Both sets of examples illustrate how radical access can shift the balance of power between museums and source communities and enable shared meaning making or abrogating that right-enhancing the relevance and ongoing preservation of textiles and communities of textile users.