The “Last” Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning in the Myers Room
On April 26, 2014, a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program was given in the Myers Room.
I arrived early in order to get a seat from which I can take good photos.
Because of the anticipated move of the TM to the GW campus, this session had initially been announced as the last RTAM that would be held in the Myers Room. However, because the room will still be available for a few months and because it is better for displaying rugs and textiles than the temporarily available options on the GW campus, an announcement was made that some further RTAM programs will be held here before the move to the new Textile Museum building on 21st Street on the GW University campus. As a result, the title of this session was changed to “Remembering the Original Myers Room: A Potpourri.”
The Myers Room, many readers will know, was the living room in Mr. Myers’ home. I once talked to an older lady who said “…the first time I was in this building it was not a museum and I was met at the front door by a butler in formal clothes and was served, unasked, a martini.” Harold Keshishian sometimes pointed to a place near the fireplace in the Myers Room and said that Mr. Myers sat there in a favorite chair and was served a favorite “toddy.”
One sense in which this session was treated as an “occasion” was that The International Conference on Oriental Carpets, had provided a Continental breakfast before the program and a luncheon (with wine) after it. This made for a delightful gathering. The luncheon was a departure, but coffee, tea and pastries are commonly offered before sessions.
In recognition of how things work on an RTAM mornings and at other times, it is important to recognize the work of Sheila Freeman.
Shiela’s is often the first face you see when you come through the TM’s front door. She is, ostensibly, a kind of greeter, but is, in fact, far more than that. She is, among other things, a real organizational “change agent.” For years there was no provision for coffee and pastries before RTAM sessions, but Sheila saw that some social interaction needed facilitating and, at her own expense, began to buy and provide coffee, tea and, sometimes, pastries. Ultimately, she was given a small budget, but TM management really had no choice: she had shamed them into it. So we need, here, to thank Sheila for fostering useful social interaction before and after these RTAM sessions.
Tom Goehner, the TM Curator of Education,
introduced Wendel Swan as the “master of ceremonies” of this session.
by saying that in this “potpourri” program, we would, primarily, look back at the Rug and Textile Appreciation Programs as they have been held in the Myers Room, but we would also look a bit forward.
He noted that the Myers Room was full,
with even a few chairs brought in, a slight departure from strict compliance with fire regulations.
He said that he wanted to begin by asking all those present who had given an RTAM program at some point to stand, and it appeared that most of those there did – to considerable applause. This was a “hard-core” RTAM crowd.
Next, Wendel noted that the exact beginnings of the RTAM programs are a bit obscure, even sometimes debated, but that we had one resource who actually attended the first RTAM (then called the “rug morning” program). He asked Phyllis Kane, who had attended the first “rug morning” session,
to talk a bit about her experience
Phyllis agreed that the origins of the RTAM programs are uncertain, but said that her remembrance was that, while Harold Keshishian
was, from the first, a big supporter, she thought that Louise Mackie, now for years at the Cleveland Art Museum, but then a TM curator, was likely the real mind behind it.
She said that Mackie got the docent group started, and it was as a docent, in those days, that Phyllis attended the first RTAM in the Spring of 1973.
Phyllis remembered that the advertising of this first session was informal, and that they wondered who would learn about it and come. They were gratified that 11 people came to the first session, and that there were 13 (sessions were initially programmed monthly) in the next one. Phyllis subsequently lived abroad for a number of years. She said she was gone for a couple of years and when she returned she found that RTAM sessions were drawing a crowd. Then she was away again, but returned to find chairs being brought in to accommodate standees. It was clear that the RTAM programs were a success.
Folks had been asked to bring pieces that might be appropriate to a session remembering the RTAMs and Phyllis had brought this one.
She described it as a Caucasian Kazak and said she had brought it, in part, because of its wonderful green field.
Here are some details of T1.
Bill Bechhoefer spoke next for himself and his wife Sondra.
He said that that they had brought a shawl which they bought in southern Tunisia, years ago, during their Peace Corps years.
Bill said that it is white cotton and white wool and dyed with indigo. They admire the fineness of the design.
Here are some closer details of T2.
In response to a question, Bill explained that the lighter blue and white-ish areas are the result of the fact that cotton does not take indigo dye as well as wool does.
Michael Seidman spoke next.
He said that he and his wife Lynda began coming to these RTAM programs in 1976, but began conducting RTAM programs in about 1980. He and the late Ed Zimmerman gave several programs in which they were able to use material from the TM Collection. Michael said they did a Turkmen program in 2005, entitled “Ersari? You Needn’t Be.” He said this title was Ed’s doing. Ed was a poet and liked word-play.
In a subsequent conversation Michael said that he and Ed began giving RTAM programs in about 1980. They gave one program a year for about 25 yrs in which museum material was featured. This was possible because of Ed’s position as chair of the Board of Trustees. Unfortunately, museum material is no longer available for the Saturday morning programs. The last program, Ed and Michael gave was in 2005 or 2006 (not sure, exactly), and was on the floral motif in carpets and textiles. It included some great Mughal velvet fragments.
Michael said that the first piece he and Lynda had brought today was a silk jijim: a strip from a sham.
Here is a detail image of T3.
Michael and Lynda had brought a second piece. This was another silk jajim bought from the Zimmerman estate.
Michael said that this Persian piece is remarkable for the intensity of its colors and for the quality of its silk. It is also unusual for the width of the red stripes and the narrowness of some of the other stripes. Compare with the first jajim (T3 above), which emphasizes stripes of similar width.
Here are some details of T4.
T23 is a small, contemporary, cushion cover produced by a known dealer in Istanbul who is doing remarkable work. The way in which the silk in these pieces takes dye is astounding.
Here are some details of T23. Its dyes are natural and it is finely embroidered.
Cynthia Boyer, a Trustee, serving on the TM Board of Directors, spoke next.
She said that her first job after college was in the textile industry and that her mother/brother brought he tor The Textile Museum.
Cynthia said she had brought a piece she had bought during the second TM trip to Central Asia.
She said that this is a hat and hair covering that she bought in Uzbekistan.
Here are some details of T5.
Amy Rispin spoke next. She brought two kilims.
The first she though was from Central Asia, seemed tribal to her, perhaps Uzbek.
The second piece, was shown later on the board, but we’ll do it here.
She said that this kilim was one of a pair she found in a thrift shop in Bethesda. The pieces had a tag indicating that they had come from an assisted living home. One of them had little holes possibly indicating that it had been used on the floor and walked on with women’s spiked-heel shoes. But the piece above was in perfect shape. She said that she thought that the two pieces might once have been sewn together to make a larger on and those in the room agreed, noting that there are borders only on one side. Likely, the other piece also has borders only on one side, suggesting, strongly, that they had been woven to be sewn together.
Here are some details of T32.
Such diamond designs and the end finish with braided warps are Kurd indicators.
After Amy had owned this piece for a while, she acquired a book on kilims of Turkey.
In it she discovered a nearly identical published piece. The book describes it as woven by Kurds in Siirt in southeast Turkey in a cicim weave.
Colin England spoke next.
He said that his first contact with the TM was at a time when he was living in Atlanta. A member of the TM staff addressed the local rug club. He said that he had brought three pieces to today’s session.
The first of these was one of the earliest pieces he bought.
Already interested in curvilinear “city” designs, he said he knew not much more than that this was an Isfahan and had about 500 kpsi.
Colin said that the next piece he brought (below) was something of a departure for him, although he is interested in silk rugs.
This piece is seemingly a small assembled khorjin set mostly in striped, silk, jijim, but supplemented in places with velvet.
Colin said that Harold Keshishian estimated that this piece was likely 18th century and that the velvet might be 17th century.
Wendel Swan observed that the order of placement of stripes and of their colors can be a means of identification.
This is true. Toward the back of the Beiber, Pinwart and Steiner book “Heybe,” the authors provide an array of the backs of the 80 heybes of which the fronts have been presented in the previous part of the volume. Their presentation is also an analysis, showing (back by back) which heybes were woven in which areas of Turkey.
Here is just one page of striped heybe backs.
And here is the opposite page showing the geographic attributions for each of these bags.
But to return to Colin’s piece, here are some details of T8.
Colin’s third piece was this one.
This is a silk Hereke with a 16th century design and about 2,000 kpsi. Very fine in most rug varieties, but some Mughal rugs have over 5,000.
Here are some details of T9.
Aija Blitte spoke next.
She said that when she first started collecting textiles, she made some real mistakes. Then she discovered the advantage of listening to, and learning from, experienced people in the textile community. The RTAM sessions have been one important venue for this learning.
Aija brought two pieces. T10 below is the first.
She told a story about its purchase. She said that she was at an ACOR convention and was talking to Gordon Priest, the Baltimore collector. Gordon showed her a piece he had bought and said that it was one of a pair and the other one still with the dealer. She went and bought it. She said that Gordon picked first, and likely believes that he got the best of the pair, but she thinks that hers is better.
She said that T10 is an Afshar bag face, not Kamseh, despite all the “chickens.”
Aija’s second piece was this salt bag.
Aija said that T11 is a “… Bordjalou salt bag. I find it so beautiful because of the central ‘medallion’ extends into the neck of the salt bag. It just looks different and the color contrast with the white is wonderful.”
T11 also has a very good striped back, festooned with animals.
Jeff Krauss spoke next. He was wearing a Japanese man’s under kimono and had a similar piece on the board. Jeff said that he was pretty certain that no one else would have brought pieces like these two.
They are pre-WWII Japanese propoganda textiles.
On the man’s silk, under kimono, there are warships, airplanes, artillery and tanks.
The textile on the board is cotton and features artillery, tanks, Japanese flags, and two children riding horses with drawn swords.
Jeff said that such propaganda textiles were woven in Japan from about 1900 to WWII.
Kelly Webb spoke next.
He has brought a chavadan that he said had been collected in northern Uzbekistan.
This format (the chavadan) is well known and published examples by Uzbek and Kyrgyz weavers are frequent.
Antipina in her “The Kyrgyz Carpet” treats a number of chavadan weavings. She says that they are 12 to 15 inches wide and 32 to 44 inches long. The chavadan is a bag. Usually, there is a pile front and a back that Antipina describes as composed of “special flat-woven strips, and a piece of homemade felt.” An opening 8 to 10 inches running length-wise is left open for placing household items in the bag.
There is a place in the back of a trellis tent, opposite the door, where a stack of the family’s prized textiles was placed. This location and stack was called a “juk” (pronounced juke) and the chavadan was placed at bottom front of it with the pile side horizontal and outward to be seen. The use of the juk often continued after nomads were settled and a niche was built into the house in which this stack of textiles was placed. Antipina says that the variation in size of the chavadans was a function of the width, in a settled dwelling, of this juk niche.
The juk was, then, essentially a niche-container. (Wendel Swan could not resist asking whether such a container might be called a kind of “juk box.” He got appropriate groans.)
Kelly said that there was some question about whether his piece was used in this way (nomads are very practical). The fact that the two ends of his piece are separated from the center section with narrow areas of flat-weave has raised the question of whether this particular chavadan might have been a cradle.
Austin Doyle spoke next.
His first piece was a Baluch rug with a spacious, white ground field design.
This rug is nearly identical (it could be the same piece) to #33 in Michael Craycraft’s “Baluch Prayer Rugs,” 1982. Austin described his as having been woven in Sistan area of Khurasan, often called “Arab.” Craycraft says that the directionality of the field design permits a description of “latent prayer rug,” despite its having niches at both ends.
The knot is asymmetric open right, rather than the open left usage, in most other Baluch varieties. Craycraft also notes that the four-cord selvege is atypical for Arab and Beluch work in this area.
Austin recounted that when he brought it to another RTAM, Harold Keshishian called it “the best piece we’ve seen today.”
Details of T20.
Austin’s second piece was a Turkmen Chodor chuval.
T33 is a published piece, formerly in the Kurt Munkacsi collection. It features a classic purplish ground color, a “lighting stripe” lattice and ertman guls.
Details of T33.
Below is a single ertman gul, a little closer. The purplish ground color is more visible here as well.
Austin’s third piece was a large, younger Ersari chuval. It might well, he said, contain synthetic dyes. Austin said that he brought it to this session because he also brought it to the “Ersari? You Needn’t Be,” RTAM given by Ed Zimmerman and Michael Seidman, and mentioned by Michael, elsewhere in this post. RTAMs ofter treated serious material, but the kind of playfulness visible in this RTAM title was also permitted.
Wendel could not resist asking Michael if he knew where Ed had gotten the playful title of “Ersari? You Needn’t Be.” Michael did not know, but Wendel suggested it had come from a ‘joke box.”
Hali once “looked down its nose,” a bit, at the now-defunct Oriental Rug Review, commenting that its exuberance sometimes got in the way of more serious work. Such exuberance, as we see Ed’s punning title, and again, in Wendel’s “juk box” and “joke box” comments, have been an enjoyable part of RTAMs as well.
This chuval is not representative of the way that Austin collects, but it is a good vehicle for looking back, fondly and with considerable humor.
Austin said this chuval has a rendition of the “mina khani,” design often used by Ersari weavers.
Details of T25.
The border is a type of herati design often used by Turkmen with this mina khani field.
The elem is nicely articulated.
Bob Emry spoke next.
Bob had brought a Yomut Turkmen chuval face with a darker palette.
He said: This chuval (ed. T16) “… is one that I call Yomut, but I suppose some German collectors might decide that it is Igdir or Karadashli, or one of those other groups that I don’t have the perception to separate out. I think it is an older piece, maybe first half 19th C.
“It has great colors. In fact, the reason I brought it to this session is because it is one that I had shown in one of my RTAMs, and Harold K. was especially attracted to it–his remark at that time was that he believed it was an older piece because of its fantastic COLOR (probably you can hear in your mind Harold saying this, with two long “o”s in color).”
Bob said that he brought this piece, in part, in remembrance of Harold’s work with, and participation, in these RTAM sessions.
Details of T16.
T17 is Bob’s second piece. It is a flat-woven one, potentially, a little mysterious.
Bob said : T17 “…is an Armenian ‘apron’.
“I know many collectors won’t consider collecting something unless it has been identified, authenticated, and certified, but I actually often collect something because I don’t know what it is.
“I found this piece at a local auction, didn’t know what it was, but knew it was interesting, so took it home.
“I had it for a while and still couldn’t pin it down, so brought it to the TM for one of the RTAM programs. Harold K. didn’t hesitate to identify it an Armenian Apron, said it is very rare, but told me one was published (in black and white) in “from the Bosporus to Samarkand). Since then I have seen images of a just a few others—one offered on Rugrabbit, and then the newest HALI (no. 179, pages 100-101) has images of four examples in the History Museum of Armenia, Yerevan.
“It is cross-stitch embroidery in wool, on a dark blue wool ground. Although some examples seem to have been made as one piece, most have a line across the middle that suggests they were made as two panels and then sewn together.”
Detail of T17.
Afterward, Bob said: “…Wendel told me that the one shown in the “Bosporus to Samarkand,” catalog has bands at the upper two corners for tying around the waist.”
John Howe: Here is the image referred to immediately above.
Richard Kahn had brought the next piece.
It is a Senneh saddle cover. Richard said about his piece that “…the yellow ground is very unusual/rare, and the weave is pretty fine.”
This piece would have been placed on top of the saddle, as you can see by the “opening” where the cantle would come through.
My notes call attention to its cotton warps, its typical herati field design, and to its unusual green-ground border, the latter featuring roses and botehs.
Detail of T15.
Wendel Swan spoke next on the pieces he had brought.
The first piece he presented was a Dazkiri yastik from West Central Turkey, which was exhibited at the ICOC in Philadelphia in 1996. It was published in Morehouse’s Yastiks book and was highlighted by Hali magazine among all the yastiks in the exhibition.
He brought a yastik because the first RTAM he attended was one given by Gayle Garrett on yastiks, with some of the material coming from The Textile Museum collection. Wendel has always wanted to get his hands on rugs to examine them closely (this is, in fact one of the general attractions of RTAMs for most partipants) and said that at one point he moved to touch one of the TM yastiks. That triggered a vigorous response of horror from Gayle. He said his excuse was that he was relatively new to rugs and didn’t understand fully the “don’t touch” prohibition that prevailed about museum collection material.
He still has trouble remaining in his chair in the audience, even when he is not presenting, and often moves to get his hands on a given piece.
Wendel believe that this yastik dates not later than the middle of the 19th Century and that there is a possibility that it is 18th Century. The fact that it was restored about 100 years ago with yarn of synthetic dyes indicates that it was prized even then. He won’t have the restoration with the synthetic dyes removed because he believes that they are an indication of its greater age.
Wendel’s next piece was this Swedish carriage cushion with 21 stars, dating from about 1800-1825. Although the design elements are different, the yastik and this agedyna share a certain method of pattern making. This illustrates how widespread was the influence of Near Eastern weavings.
Wendel said that this piece is rare in that it is the only one he has ever seen that was complete in that it not only has its original back, but is stuffed for use with goose down.
His next piece was this fragment.
Wendel said about T24: “From its structure, colors and patterning, this fragment seems to be from Anatolia, most likely Eastern Anatolia, but it is not what anyone would call Kurdish. It has been carbon dated to between 1485 and 1670 with 97% accuracy. I think it is likely to be from the first half of the 17th century. The border is nearly identical to borders found on some rugs called called early Caucasian, but the handle is much looser that most rugs in that category. I acquired it in large part because of my interest in the history of carpet weaving and The Textile Museum has made it possible to learn about historical carpets.
Detail of T24.
The next pieces were brought by the gentleman pictured below. He has often been a participant in these RTAM sessions.
He had brought two Turkman saddle pieces with similar designs. These designs often appear on Yomut weavings.
T18, above, was likely placed under the saddle.
T19, below, was placed on top of the saddle.
These two pieces with very similar designs could have been a set, although I don’t think he claimed that.
Bob Emry said that there has been some suggestion that pieces like the larger one above might have been funeral rugs. Some have mitered corners and signatures.
The larger piece here
has butted main borders and “elem-type” compartments with a further border design its the ends.
Tim Hays spoke next about three pieces he and his wife Penny brought in.
His first kilim in prayer format had strong graphics and colors.
Tim said: T27 “… is a so-called Sarkoy kilim. Actually, this is from Pirot Serbia [although Pirot was in the Ottoman Province Bulgaria at the time this was made (before 1868)]. This is an example of the very fine weaving typical of Pirot. The handle is like cloth and the colors all natural, including the wonderful red. The empty field design of the kilim is very unusual as most pieces have more decorative filler motifs. The design indicates the piece was likely to have been made for use in the Ottoman territories, and not in Europe. Notice the two human faces that appear in the apex areas of the mihrab.
We brought these pieces to demonstrate how our collecting interests have evolved since we became involved with the RTAM at the Textile Museum. We extended our collecting interests from Manastir kilims from Bulgaria and Anatolia to the range of textiles originating in the South Balkans; and then to Syria.
Details of T27.
T28 “… is from Aleppo in Syria. Its tapestry woven with some slit weave and makes extensive use of gold-colored metallic thread. The repertoire of designs on this piece and the very extensive use of metallic thread, is typical for these group of Syrian textiles.
“This example dates from 1900 or before and is comprised of two panels sewn together longitudinally.
“I don’t believe these two panels began their lives sewn together, they probably were made as draperies or portieres and then joined for use as a bedcover or room divider.
“Our interaction with people at the RTAM has expanded our appreciation for these very sophisticated weavings from the Levant.”
Details of T28.
Tim’s third piece was this niche kilim.
About it he said “The third piece we showed is an example of our favorite type of Balkan textile – a Manastir kilim from Eastern Bulgaria.
“This is a powerful example of the type. With its central mihrab with large ‘witterhorns’ and its use of large protective symbols such as the hands of Fatima (notice the hands are interlaced) and the black and white triangles) the kilim is full of Turkish influences and was made by ethnically Turkish people in Bulgaria. The dyes are also more similar to those produced in the Balkans than those used with the brethren which were produced in Anatolia.
“We believe this kilim may have been made for devotional use in the home of Bulgaria’s Muslim residence. Although the kilm design is relatively simple we see it as an effective piece of folk art.
“This kilim is published in Stoebe and Mizrahi’s book-Manastir Kilims: In Search of a Trail. These authors have been a driving force in our collecting of Balkan kilims as well as being great friends and colleagues.
Details of T29.
I was the last speaker of the day.
I said that I wanted to start by paying tribute to Virginia Delfico,
Courtesy of Barry O’Connell
who was the director of Education at the TM when I first began coming to these RTAM sessions and who oversaw the first RTAM I conducted.
Virginia told me, once, that, when she became the TM’s director of Education, she was told that the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs (then called “rug mornings”) were “sacred.” Her default position, she said, what that there would be an RTAM on most Saturday mornings, and she nearly pulled this off.
I had occasion, once, to go through all I had of what is now called the “Members’ Magazine and to build a data base over 10 years in length indicating how many RTAMs had been conducted each month. During Virginia’s eleven year tenure, she often offered five RTAMs in a month that had five Saturdays in it. She nearly always had four, and three was infrequent. I said that what Virginia did was one hell of an “act,” and that we needed to have a vigorous round of applause for her achievements. We did.
I brought three pieces.
T30 is a Caucasian Kazak rug of a well-known field design and border system. There is a larger piece with this design in Schurmann in brilliant colors. This piece has a more subdued palette. The field design is, mostly, a species of tessellation. and the main border is an archaic version of a reciprocal. It is dated 1319, which is early 20th century. It is a smaller size and displays easily on a wall. I’ve owned it for over 10 years and finally sent it to Turkey for a vacation that makes it possible for me to enjoy it in a condition closer to its original. I brought it, in part, because it exemplifies one of the functions that RTAMs perform: that of introducing participants to some of the well-known types of textiles of various of sorts.
Here are some details of T30.
My second piece was a Kizil Ayak Turkmen chuval. I brought it because it represents a piece of advice I was given early in these RTAM sessions, namely, that it is advantageous for new collectors to focus their efforts on a particular area. I took this advice and was, at the beginning, pretty exclusively a Turkmen textile collector, despite collecting on a budget.
This is a piece found by my wife Jo Ann, in an antique shop that still exists in New Hope. PA. Its sign says “Antique Rugs and Cement Lawn Ornaments.” I asked whether they had any Turkmen rugs and they said “No..” But Jo had already been looking into their stacks and waved me over. It was not in good condition, but was basically all there, and the drawing was textbook Kizil Ayak. I asked what they could do and they said “75 dollars.” I said “65,” and they said “Done.”
We’ve had it for a few years and then sent it to Turkey for a year-long vacation. It is one of our favorite pieces.
Here are some details of T33.
Notice that in the image below, the Xs in the quartered center of the major guls are serifed. This kind of detail is the kind of thing readily dropped out as weavers, as time progresses, conventionalize designs. Serifed Xs are seen by some to be an indicator of age. Noticing this kind of detail is why Turkmen collectors are sometimes called ‘Turkomaniacs.”
With it in his hands Robert Pinner said that it was “before 1850, but not quite fine enough (it’s about 100 kpsi) to be a Kizil Ayak and is, better called, ‘Ersari.'” Later, Azadi, also with it in hand, said that it’s Kizil Ayak, anyway. One feels freed a bit when the gods of the rug world flatly disagree.
My third piece and the last of the day, illustrates another of the ways that these RTAM programs function for learning. Sometimes they are the occasion for learning what you’ve acquired.
I bought the piece below, recently, and the dealer described it as Mexican. It is cotton, striped and composed of six narrow sections sewn together. It is about 8 feet long. I have seen Mexican pieces, woven on narrow looms, and sewn together, so, while I don’t know Mexican textiles at all, that was plausible. So I adopted this dealer’s attribution.
Several people in the audience objected, in a chorus, to a Mexican attribution, saying that the piece was definitely African, and was was likely woven in Mali. Well, I don’t know African textiles, either, but I’ve been alerted that I need to do a little research. So this is another way in which RTAMs function for learning.
Here are some detail images of T31.
Audience members thought that the band in the image below that is featured in red and white was a Mali indicator.
Wendel said, at the beginning, that we’d look back on the RTAM in the Myers Room and also consider what the RTAMs may become, as we move into a new Myers Room in the new GWU Textile Museum building.
What follows here, are my own musings on all of this.
It seems to me that the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs have been one of its most valuable public information outreach programs the TM offers. These programs are free and rarely require reservations. They are a real vehicle for connecting members of both the local textile community and the general public. The learning that has occurred in them cannot be described adequately. The fact that they have been produced for over 40 years, without a budget for speaker travel or honorariums, is a major inter-generational achievement.
Yes, the RTAMs have, historically been, primarily, a resource to those who live in the DC area, BUT, since 2007, I have moved to make them available to a much large audience. So the “local availability only” argument no longer applies.
On the other hand, the history of the RTAM programs has not been so sanguine in recent years. The years of Virginia Delfico’s tenure as the director of the TM Eduction Department seem likely to turn out the be the acme of RTAM history. As I said earlier, Virginia’s default position was that there would be an RTAM program on most Saturdays. When Virginia left, there were a series of directors of the TM Education Department and, at some time in that period, the number of RTAM programs offered each month was sharply reduced.
Nowadays, it seems that the TM’s RTAM goal is to hold two programs a month and we are often not able to achieve even that. I just looked at what we’re managing so far this year.
Jan. – 1
Feb. – 2
March – 2
April – 2
May – 1
June – 2
So it’s clear that the RTAM programs are no longer “sacred,” as Virgina said she was told, in her time, they were.
And the move to the new museum on the GWU campus will likely have impact. (I should say, here, on the side, that I think that, on balance, the move to join the GWU community was the right one. It solved, for the foreseeable future, the critical problem of a stately but aging facility that we could likely not afford to repair adequately.) The facility problem seems thoroughly solved by this move.
On one hand, once we’re into the new museum building, the RTAMs are to be held in a space that is likely an improvement on the Myers Room. But the long-term interest the combined TM and GWU communities will have in the RTAM programs is not clear.
The producing and facilitating of the RTAMs is currently, largely, done on a volunteer basis. There is no provision, of which I’m aware, for going on if this volunteer work does not continue (and the volunteers doing this critical work are getting older.)
I, personally, worry that the RTAMs may get lost. The joining of the GWU community could lead to access to resources that could transform the character of RTAMs in ways we cannot yet envision and enhance the delivery of virtual RTAM programs to larger audiences. But I have repeatedly suggested, without response, that the production of these virtual RTAMs should be institutionalized in some way.
It may be that some institutionalization will occur. But I worked for over 40 years in large work organizations and have never seen an instance where a smaller organization joined a larger one in which the preoccupations of the larger organization did not “sandpaper” the character of the smaller one (even if the larger organization was not consciously trying to do so). The preoccupations of the larger organization are pervasive.
I am fairly certain that the Textile Museum, as part of the GWU complex, will result, in 20 years, in a very different Textile Museum. But I worry that the RTAMs, a demonstrated valuable public outreach program for 40 years, could be lost sight of and inadvertently discarded long before then. I hope that I am wrong and that provision will be made to go on. It is likely too soon to feel as pessimistic as I do. The new TM-GMU relationship needs to be given a chance to work itself out for the better.
Wendel closed the session and again invited everyone to the ICOC-provided luncheon, across that hall. The usual after-session conversations started up.
The weather was nice and so some drifted into tables in the Myers house gardens.
I want to thank the participants in this session, most of whom have been RTAM presenters over the years. A particular thanks to Wendel Swan, who produced and facilitated this session. Thanks, also, to Peggy Brown for another good set of notes, And, last, our thanks, again, to the ICOC for providing an enjoyable lunch.
This was not quite the last RTAM event that will be held in the Myers Room before the move to the new museum on the GWU campus, but we’re getting closer.
R. John Howe