In 1919, Lucy Truman Aldrich (1869–1955)—the eldest daughter of Rhode Island senator Nelson Aldrich and the sister of philanthropist Abby Aldrich Rockefeller—embarked on a voyage to Japan, Korea, and China. This journey activated a lifelong appreciation for the finest examples of textile artisanry and sparked a brilliant collecting career spanning three decades. Aldrich made five more collecting trips during the 1920s, with repeat visits to Japan, Korea, and China and forays to India, Indonesia, and Egypt, amassing many hundreds of spectacular textiles from these regions.
Since Aldrich’s return from her initial voyage, the textiles she collected have found a place of honor within the RISD Museum’s galleries. In 1951 she dedicated a gallery for their display in memory of her sister. Another of Aldrich’s collections, that of early European porcelain, is on display on the Museum’s 3rd floor in a gallery devoted to this material.
Between 1934 and 1955, Aldrich gave more than 700 garments and textiles to the RISD Museum, forming the nucleus of the Museum’s renowned Asian textile collections. Two of the most significant groupings of Nō theater robes and Buddhist monks’ mantles outside of Japan are included in these holdings, as are exemplars of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Persian, and Ottoman court and religious textile arts. The textiles in this gallery span Aldrich’s collecting career, from her days as a novice to her choices as a seasoned expert, affording the study of a diverse array of Asian textile traditions and illuminating the skill and effort of the artisans who fashioned these extraordinary objects.