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A Hidden Gem for Rugs: The Textile Museum

A Hidden Gem for Rugs

The Textile Museum 

By Jim Bennight

Textile MuseumWhen I visited Washington, DC last year (Spring '08) I told a friend I was meeting for lunch that I would be at the Textile Museum that morning to attend a program.  She said, “Oh my!  You’re worse than my Dad was in choosing museums.”  Of course we each laughed.   Okay, it sounds like a strange choice to some, but to a rug aficionado, this is the place to be on most Saturday mornings.   

The Textile Museum had a modest beginning of 275 rugs and 60 related textiles when it was founded in 1925 by George Hewitt Myers, who continued to collect for the museum until his death in 1957.  The collection has now grown to over 18,000 pieces, from contemporary to some dating from 3000 B.C.E. and is now one of the world’s foremost  specialized art museums.    

While there are many textiles ranging from cloth fragments to ethnic costumes, you may be like me and have more interest in rugs.   The Textile Museum collections include 15th century Mamluk rugs from Egypt, Anatolian and Central Asian rugs, and a group of 17th century Caucasian dragon carpets and fragments that may be the best collection in the world outside of Turkey. 

On most Saturday mornings, you can attend Rug & Textile Appreciation Morning.  This program is free to all but there is limited seating so be prompt or a little early for the 10:30 start.  The one I attended was presented by Jeff Krause and John Howe on Blue in Rugs and Other Textiles. John Howe is a frequent presenter and often later provides virtual presentations at    

Other presenters often include rug professionals and serious collectors and typically include a “show and tell” time where you are invited to bring an example for discussion. 

A few tips when visiting:   The Museum  has limited parking but it is a short walk from the Dupont Circle Metro Station.  The Museum doesn’t open until 10 a.m. and there is no place to sit outside while you wait.  It is located near historic “Embassy Row”.  In fact there is an Embassy just a few doors away (dog gone memory won’t tell me which one.) 

In the mean time, visit their web site for more details and scheduling.

John Howe

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