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Finding Aids to Official Records of the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 472

National Museum of American History. Division of Textiles

Records, circa 1947-1982

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: National Museum of American History. Division of Textiles
Title: Records
Dates: circa 1947-1982
Quantity: 1.5 cu. ft. (1 record storage box) (1 document box)
Collection: Record Unit 472
Language of Materials: English
Summary:

For the most part, this record unit documents curatorial activities of the Division of Textiles after the creation of the Museum of History and Technology in 1957; however, some records also date from the time the Division was a Section of the Division of Crafts and Industries in the United States National Museum.

These records consist of inquiries from private collectors, textile corporations, universities, and historical societies pertaining to collections of the Division; copies of curatorial responses to public inquiries; budgetary information; accession lists; correspondence referring to identification of textile specimens, their preservation needs, and tours of the Textile Hall; and curatorial reports.

Historical Note

The Smithsonian Institution established a Section of Foods and Textiles as a part of the United States National Museum (USNM) in 1883. Romyn Hitchcock, an experienced microscopist and chemist, was selected as Curator of Textiles and also acted as Assistant Curator along with Honorary Curator W. O. Atwater in the analysis of food products. Many of the textile specimens assigned to Hitchcock were acquired at the close of the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. The Section was renamed the Section of Textiles shortly before its demise in 1890. In 1912, the Division of Textiles was re-established, reporting to the Assistant Secretary in charge of USNM. Frederick L. Lewton became Curator of the Division. From 1916, Lewton was also responsible for medical collections, and between 1931 and 1938 the collections were administered jointly by a single Division of Textiles and Medicine. In the latter year textiles became a Section within the newly established Division of Crafts and Industries, of which Lewton served as Curator through 1946. Textiles was reestablished as a division in 1957 and was moved among many different departments until its affiliation with the Department of Social and Cultural History in 1981. For an account of these administrative changes, see the introduction to the Department of the History of Science and Technology, whose antecedent departments oversaw the Division prior to 1980.

The principal function of the Division of Textiles is to document the historical, cultural, and economic development of American textile fabrics, implements, and machinery since the seventeenth century. In addition to American technical progress in the production of textiles, work of the Division focused on the earliest methods of textile making throughout the world. Research interests of the Division and its predecessors included tapestry, weaving, household and costume textiles, woolen goods, silks, sewing threads, hand spinning-wheels, sewing machines, patent models, textile techniques from fiber to fabric, fiber identification, dyes, quilts, and other needlework. The Division staff also has developed exhibitions, presented lectures on the history of textile manufacturing, published catalogs, and collected and conserved objects.

Staff of the Division included Rita J. Adrosko, Associate Curator, 1963-1970, and Curator, 1971- ; Grace Rogers Cooper, Assistant Curator, 1949-1956, Associate Curator, 1957, and Curator, 1958-1976; Gary B. Kulik, Assistant Curator, 1979-1981, and Associate Curator, 1982; William N. Watkins, Curator, 1947-1957; Milton Eisler, Conservator, 1960-1963; Maureen Collins McHugh, Conservator, 1963-1970; Katherine Dirks, museum technician, 1971-1980, and Conservator, 1981- ; Doris M. Bowman, needlework and lace specialist, 1960- ; Lois Vann, museum specialist, 1961- ; and Barbara Suit Janssen, museum specialist, 1975- .

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Descriptive Entry

For the most part, this record unit documents curatorial and staff activities of the Division of Textiles after the creation of the Museum of History and Technology in 1957; however, some records also date from the time the Division was a Section of the Division of Crafts and Industries in the United States National Museum.

These records consist of inquiries from private collectors, textile corporations, universities, and historical societies pertaining to collections of the Division; copies of curatorial responses to public inquiries; budgetary information; accession lists; correspondence referring to identification of textile specimens, their preservation needs, and tours of the Textile Hall; and curatorial reports.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 472, National Museum of American History. Division of Textiles, Records

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Container List

Box 1

Correspondence, 1977

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, 1978 (3 folders)

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, 1979 (4 folders)

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, January-June 1980

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, July-December 1980

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, January-June 1981

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, July-December 1981

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, January-June 1982

Box 1 of 2

Correspondence, July-December 1982

Box 1 of 2

Box 2

Annual Reports, 1947-1958

Box 2 of 2

Annual Reports, 1960-1969

Box 2 of 2

Budget, 1971

Box 2 of 2

Budget, 1957-1964

Box 2 of 2

Plan of Operation, 1970

Box 2 of 2

Report on Record Holdings, 1952-1960

Box 2 of 2