Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.



When the DIA began implementing its renovation, restoration, and expansion project in 2001, its objective was to make essential upgrades to the Museum’s aging facility, improve traffic flow and way-finding patterns and increase gallery space. The enormous task of the building project presented the unprecedented opportunity for the Museum to reshape the visitor experience, not only through an upgraded building and new amenities, but also by rethinking how to present its world-class collection to the public.

More than 5,000 works of art have been reinstalled in some 150,000 square feet of gallery space in a way that allows visitors to more easily make personal connections with the art and to understand the objects in the context of their own place and time. Instead of grouping objects strictly by time period or style, many galleries are now arranged according to the stories the objects have to tell and explore themes that resonate with each visitor’s personal experiences, such as spirituality, travel, and the cycles of life.

The Big Idea

Special exhibitions have always had “big ideas” that provide the organizing principle or story on which the show is based. In the new DIA installation, the big idea was applied to the permanent collection. Left behind were the traditional divisions by nationality, geography, and time periods. Eighteenth-century French art is no longer arranged by style but around ideas such as Splendor by the Hour, where visitors walk through galleries arranged to evoke a day in the life of a European aristocrat. Seventeenth-century Italian art is not presented as Italian baroque painting but rather as Art as Theater, with the emphasis on the dramatic approaches many artists of the time used in their work to revive religious devotion. The Grand Tour of Italy tells the story of the journeys taken by wealthy young men in the Eighteenth century to complete their education and African art, once organized by place of origin, now revolves around the role objects play in African life, whether in ceremonies celebrating birth, puberty, marriage, or death, as symbols of sacred kingship, or as a means of commemorating ancestors.