Located in the heart of GW's Foggy Bottom Campus, Washington, the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum fosters the study and appreciation of art, history, and culture—both within the university and throughout the global community. As a cornerstone of the university’s growing focus on arts and culture, the museum unites:
The Textile Museum, an institution with a nearly one-hundred year history, an established audience, and a respected collection of textile art representing five continents and five millennia.
The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection of historic artifacts that tell the story of the founding and evolution of our nation’s capital.
For more information, visit their website.
Through exhibitions, programs, and academic courses, the museum integrates with diverse disciplines to enrich research, education, and cultural understanding both across and beyond the university. The museum also strengthens the established reputation of GW as a leader in training the next generation of museum professionals. Finally, it welcomes the public into the life of the university and, through its collections, creates opportunities for exchange and collaboration throughout the world.
Description of Education Initiatives:
Legacy Programming from the Textile Museum
Most of the programs at the museum’s previous location dealt with the aesthetic, historical, and cultural aspects of textiles to support museum exhibitions about groups of textile-making societies around the world. Historically, the museum produced a range of public and member programs including gallery talks and tours, lectures, films, workshops as well as family programs. It also hosted two major annual events, the scholarly Annual Symposium each fall and the Celebration of Textiles community festival each summer. Following are brief descriptions of these two annual programs and other recurring programs that have continued at our new location.
Every exhibition has an accompanying selection of programs where the textile arts, performing arts, and other cultural aspects of a region of the world are shared with the public by scholars, practitioners, and performers.
Scholarly Lecture Series
The education department frequently presents lectures featuring authorities on textiles, ranging from scholars who focus on a specific region’s textile to discussions involving influential collectors and noteworthy textile designers and artists. Scholarly lectures might also include contemporary fiber artists or esteemed collectors who speak about their own work or life.
Gallery talks allow our visitors to engage directly with works of art in the galleries through focused talks led by curators, conservators, educators, and other invited specialists. Docent-led tours are also offered.
Visitors delve into the world of textile making and design through a variety of approaches such as weaving, dyeing and more. These workshops are led by international and local artists, and are tailored for students of all levels of experience.
Film programs screen documentaries and exhibition-related films that showcase textile traditions from around the world to provide an expanded view of the cultures that create them. Films also feature textile making techniques and other special issues like sustainability.
Annual Textile Symposium
This scholarly event celebrates newly-opened textile exhibitions with a panel of scholars, curators, and collectors giving papers on topics related to different aspects of the exhibition’s themes. Begun in 1972 as the Rug Convention, this program was renamed the Fall Symposium in 2006. Historically, the symposium was a two-day program. After a day of lectures, each symposium also featured a show-and-tell session, where the guest scholars from the panel would evaluate and discuss exhibition-related textiles brought in by attendees. Since moving to George Washington University, the experience of hosting symposia (Picturing China and Only in Okinawa) revealed logistical constraints, leading the format to be reduced to one full day. The annual nature of the symposia is currently under review, and may change to occur on a case-by-case basis, when appropriate new scholarship and sponsorship are available.
Celebration of Textiles
The Celebration of Textiles program began more than 35 years ago as a family-friendly, 2-day exposition of different textile crafts and skills that included weaving, spinning, embroidery, carpet repair, dyeing, quilting, hands-on art projects, and a popular sheep shearing demonstration during the Dupont–Kalorama neighborhood’s annual museum walk day. Now that the museum has relocated to its new location on the main campus of The George Washington University, this popular program that draws over 2,000 visitors is staged during the University’s “Welcome Week” to showcase GW performing arts, multicultural student services, international student activities, and other student organizations.
Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings
This program series brings together textile experts and enthusiasts for an in-depth discussion of historic and traditional textiles and often includes a thematic show-and-tell of personal pieces. Dating back to the 1970s and now given in memory of a trustee emeritus, this is the longest continuously-running program from The Textile Museum. The program features talks by textile scholars, curators, and regarded collectors. We continue to offer this program on bi-weekly schedule in collaboration with members of the museum’s Board of Trustees and Textile Museum Council.
Behind-the-Scenes Tours and Trips
The museum organized a variety of special tours and excursions highlighting textile collections in museums, embassies, and private homes. This program was supported by The New Horizons Committee, an informal group of volunteers with strong connections to the textile community. The New Horizons Committee was formed in 1997 to collaborate on these trips with the goal of expanding the community of Textile Museum members and supporters. Starting in 2015, these programs expanded to include Washingtoniana-related trips in and around the Washington, D.C. area.
Ask a Curator, Ask a Conservator
This monthly program invites visitors to bring inquiries to a textile expert about pieces from their personal collections through one-on-one consultations with museum curators and conservators. Visitors are encouraged to bring the textile in question for examination, if possible. Since moving to The George Washington University, the museum has incorporated this program into our Textiles at 12 series.
Quarterly Family Days
Family Day festivals are all-ages events that celebrate the arts and traditions of the culture(s) whose textiles are on view in the galleries. Since 2015, the museum also incorporates one family day each year inspired by its exhibitions on Washingtoniana. These quarterly events feature hands-on art activities, exhibition tours, and family-friendly performances.
The museum docent program began in 1971 with 7 volunteers and has since grown to a corps of 22 enthusiastic volunteers. Docents lead over 250 tours annually and are responsible for a significant portion of the educational programming at the museum. They are tasked with interpreting exhibitions for visitors from aesthetic, cultural, and technical points of view, while adapting to the various needs of audiences. Museum docents lead exhibition tours for community groups, university classes, and k-12 school groups. They also give museum highlights tours on Saturdays and Sundays. Docents additionally assist with special museum programs including Celebration of Textiles, or other large events where museum tours are needed.
The docent program is a major undertaking for both museum staff and docent volunteers. Docents are trained on all exhibitions and collections on view for The Textile Museum and The Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. Prospective docents must make a two-year commitment and attend weekly training and enrichment sessions September through May. Docents are also required to be available to lead tours one day per week and two weekends per quarter.
In addition to retaining the legacy programs conceived at the old location, the museum staff added two new recurring programs to engage audiences for both The Textile Museum collections and the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. We also opened the interactive gallery space, Textiles 101 in the winter of 2018 and developed the framework for the Center for National Capital Area Studies, including the Albert H. Small-George Washington University Symposium.
Textiles at 12
These weekly lunchtime programs – including films, lectures, introductory workshops and gallery talks – explore textile arts and global cultures represented in The Textile Museum Collection. These focused, brief programs allow an expansive array of textile topics to be covered in a casual environment. These programs allow the flexibility to expand beyond our collections and incorporate contemporary, American, and European textiles. The first Thursday of each month is dedicated to the “Ask a Curator, Ask a Conservator” program.
Opened in 2018, Textiles 101 is a hands-on gallery space designed to introduce visitors to the fundamentals of textile making. We activate our textile art programming with this hybrid of exhibition and workshop space adjacent to the Textile Museum collections gallery. Textiles 101 features a set of interactive displays on the fundamental elements of any textile’s design: fiber, color and structure. The space also offers flexible elements that can change based on current exhibitions, class curricula, or program needs. This dynamic space will be the hub for all programming on the specialty topics of textile arts, art making, and art appreciation. Textiles 101 is the starting and/or ending point for museum tours of textile exhibitions. This fully-equipped classroom is available for university classes and workshops, demonstrations, or gatherings of local textile makers. Flexible exhibition elements allow staff, students, and local artist to change and contribute new content to the space over time.
For more information, visit their education page.
Partnership with the DC Collaborative
DC Collaborative Member since 2002
"As a relatively small, specialized museum, the DC Collaborative ahs been a valuable resource that connects our exhibitions and scholarship in accessible ways for our community's K-12 students and educators from all backgrounds."
Arts and Humanities for Every Student Provider
The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum is an AHFES provider! Teachers can view their programs here.
Fun Fact! The oldest textile in the collection dates from circa 1200 BCE and is an Egyptian painted linen textile--So it is 3000 years old!