News item from 2009

Ikat Cloth

Ashmolean Museum receives an award from the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation for a new Textiles Gallery

The grant is a generous contribution towards the Ashmolean’s major redevelopment, providing the Museum with 39 new galleries.

One of the Ashmolean’s best kept secrets is its large collection of textiles. The DCMS/Wolfson grant will fund showcases, environmental control, plus interpretative material such as labels, graphic panels and interactives for the new Textiles Gallery.

“We are extremely grateful to DCMS / Wolfson whose grant will enable us, for the very first time, to display a far greater percentage of our textiles collection, which comprises over 4,000 pieces. At long last, we will reveal our previously hidden treasures for all our visitors to enjoy”, Christopher Brown, Director of the Ashmolean.

Opening to the public on Saturday 7 November, the Ashmolean’s new building will present an innovative approach to displaying its renowned collections entitled Crossing Cultures Crossing Time. Situated on the new Lower Ground Floor, the Textiles Gallery, adjoining the Materials Gallery and the Reading and Writing Gallery, will be part of a series of thematic displays exploring the cultural connections between the Ashmolean’s collections of art and archaeology from across the globe.

Cross-cultural exchange is a one of the main themes of the Gallery. Historically textiles have been among the most important manufactured goods to move between cultures, playing a key role in the exchange of knowledge and design. In the ancient world, linen and wool textiles were major commodities moving between Egypt, Greece and Italy. Chinese silks had a profound effect on the arts of Persia and Byzantium. Finely printed and dyed Indian cotton textiles were in demand in the East and West alike, becoming a widely accepted currency of exchange in the medieval and early modern maritime spice trade. In the Mediterranean world, Italian velvets were coveted in Persia, and European embroidery took inspiration from Islamic Egypt and Syria. More recently, 18th-century French jacquard loom fabrics and 19th-century English cotton textiles contributed to the Industrial Revolution and were traded to East and West, to Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

The Textiles Gallery, which is also supported by The Clothworkers’ Foundation, will focus on the making and meaning of textiles in the widest cultural setting. Cross cultural displays which investigate the social role of textiles as dress, furnishings, and ceremonial objects, all of which have been and remain firm markers of social identity and status.

Paul Ramsbottom, Executive Secretary of the Wolfson Foundation, said: “The Trustees of the Wolfson Foundation are pleased to be working in partnership with DCMS in support of museums and galleries. The quality of applications received was extremely high, and the projects funded will help to improve the enjoyment of this country's diverse and wonderful heritage collections.”

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