A World of Costume and Textiles
The first gifts of costume and textiles came into the collection of the Rhode Island School of Design in 1887, even before the Museum began to collect officially in 1891. Early donations included a pair of American Indian moccasins, tapa cloth, and a Siamese fan soon to be increased by donations of Italian vestments, Kashmir shawls, and American quilts and coverlets. Japanese textiles, stencils, and sample books that form the nucleus of the Museum's outstanding Japanese collection were gifts of several early donors.
Since then, the collection, which spans two millennia, has acquired outstanding examples from nearly every culture in the world. Particularly strong in Pre-Columbian textiles from Peru, Coptic textiles from 4th to 7th century Egypt, European costume and textiles from the 16th through the 18th centuries, and French and American 20th century designs, the collection is also rich in Asian textiles and costume, thanks to Miss Lucy Truman Aldrich of Providence, who gave her entire collection of Indian, Indonesian, Chinese, and Japanese textiles collected on the spot in the 1920s. Her collection of robes from the Japanese Noh drama has been called the finest in the United States.
The exhibition has been selected from among the most important examples in the collection, and includes everything from African blankets to 20th century European costume. Nearly all the objects are listed and described in the accompanying handbook of the collection, A World of Costume and Textiles. Elsewhere in the Museum are other costumes and textiles that are part of the exhibition; the Flemish tapestry on the cover of A World of Costume and Textiles is in the Northern Renaissance Gallery on A floor; and many ethnographic textiles are in teh Ethnographic Gallery on E floor. Each one has a tag indicating that it is part of the exhibition.