Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000


Copyright © 2000 by the author(s).


Museums are important repositories of culture and play a key role in shaping values concerning art. Indeed, museum acceptance can validate the worth of an artwork, and is often a prerequisite for an artist's long-term success. Contemporary fiber, like textiles in general, occupies a lowly position within the hierarchy of large museums, where it constantly struggles for the position and recognition that other media are automatically granted. Smaller museums and those not focused solely on art can be more accepting, but they, too, discriminate against textiles. In order to challenge this status quo, it is essential to understand how museums operate. The panelists are curators who collect fiber art. Together we represent three different kinds of institutions -- art museums, interdisciplinary museums, and university collections -- but each of us has experienced, and sought to overcome, various challenges facing any curator trying to collect textiles. We will offer insiders' perspectives on the way museums operate, and the obstacles faced by textiles/fiber art in our differing institutional contexts. Specifically, we will discuss the often arbitrary and haphazard hierarchies that museums have used to organize themselves and pigeonhole their collections, and the ways those hierarchies have shaped collecting. We will review how art world and museum politics and economics affect fiber, and explore the ways artists, collectors, historians, anthropologists, and critics can affect museum collecting. And we will discuss ways that curators can influence and expand institutional definitions of art and textiles, despite the financial, political, and bureaucratic boundaries museums impose.