Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


This paper examines the roots and future of textile museum collections, display and curation in North America. The first half looks back, to the origins of dedicated textile galleries, museums, museum departments, and curators, and examines why this one medium was systematically singled out for special attention in early museums, who the early audiences were, and the methods for communicating textile collections. The history of textile curation and display at the Royal Ontario Museum, of Toronto, Canada, founded in 1914 as an encyclopedic museum, is examined as a fascinating and classic case study in point. The second part of the paper examines the current (and future) broad trends in regards to the growth and direction of North America’s museum textile collections, departments, galleries and exhibits.