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This yarn’s about yarn, in a textile museum

11 Jan 2010

The American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA—grandly reopened in June after a $1.5 million renovation—is a Smithsonian Affiliate Museum and home to “the most significant collection of historic textile items in the Americas, possibly the world.” I went with a couple of friends not knowing what to expect, and we ended up having a great time exploring the historic machine shop-turned-museum’s labyrinthine rooms and passages. The permanent exhibit is called “Textile Revolution: An Exploration Through Space and Time,” and from what I understand, it’s a huge improvement and expansion from the museum’s previous offerings.

There were so many things in this museum to become enthralled with: bales of raw fibers, bolts of fabrics, spools of ribbons, tapestries, clothing, looms, weaving and spinning machines, fabric printing tools, photographs, documents, and now (I believe this was part of the expansion), examples of today’s textiles, like those used to make swimsuits, bicycles, astronauts’ uniforms, even planes. You name it…

To the museum’s credit, the exhibit labels are simple, not themed—lord knows that could have turned ugly fast. There were some instances of type use I did not like at all but I’ll let them slide because of my overall enjoyment of the museum. And I like the label system more now that I’ve taken another look at photos of the visit—the black boxes have grown on me. The black bands: anyone else reminded of NY subway signage (Myriad swapped in for Helvetica)? The low-budget mounting system makes a lot of sense for this museum; the labels, printed on paper, are easily replaceable but still look nice behind plexi and slid into silver channels.

I loved the above box of indigo cakes, and the jars of powdered dye, below; those jar labels and their chemical structure drawings—how neat are they?!

I’d go back…

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