Celebration of the Documenting and Archiving of Many of The Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning Programs, Part 1

Dear folks –

On July 13,2019, the Textile Museum held a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning program that was a real “potpourri” type RTAM but one that also celebrated the documenting of many of these programs on my Textiles and Text and Eccentric weft sites, and the, just completed archiving of them, as TM Library resources. 

This latter included putting up an edited, electronic version of these posts and the creating of a set of paper-based pdf volumes of them. 

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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This archiving has entailed a considerable expenditure of Textile Museum resources.

So this post has two parts.  Part 1, which is this one, is given over to the celebration.  It is awkward for me to fashion this virtual version of it since it includes a lot of nice words said about my documenting work.

John Wetenhall, The Textile Museum Director,

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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gave these welcoming remarks:

  • Good morning, I’m John Wetenhall, … I want to welcome you to this special Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning honoring the diligent work of museum member and Rug Morning fixture John Howe.
  • John Howe has been carefully photographing and chronicling these sessions since 2007 on his blog Textiles and Text.
  • For over a decade, John has covered the majority of these unique lectures and worked with the guest speakers to produce a lasting record of these programs.
  • Today, we honor his passion for this program and for capturing so many rare collections and scholars who have enriched our understanding of textiles.
  • And now I would like to turn the podium over to Melissa Keshishian, whose late Husband Harold was one of the founders of the program back in the early 1970s. Melissa…

Melissa continued:

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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  • As many of you know, since his passing in 2010, these Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings have been held in memory of my late husband Harold Keshishian, who helped begin these Saturday rug events at the old location on S Street.
  • Harold was President of Mark Keshishian & Sons Oriental Rugs, founded by his father and uncle in 1907. He served Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton on the United States Cultural Properties Advisory Committee.
  • In 1988, he received the Joseph V. McMullan Award for Stewardship and Scholarship in Islamic Rugs and Textiles, and in 2008 he was an inaugural recipient of The Textile Museum Award of Distinction, which recognizes outstanding service in fulfillment of the Museum’s mission.
  • Harold had a lifelong love of The Textile Museum and contributed to this institution in so many ways: as Trustee Emeritus, donor, program presenter, and friend.
  • A collector of antiquities, such as Oriental rugs and Pre-Columbian art, Harold helped found this very series in the 1970s. This program continues to provide visitors an informal forum for the exchange of ideas, and has been a beloved foundation of our educational programs for the past four decades.
  • Of course there were others that helped form the nucleus of what we now know as Rug and Textile Appreciation mornings as well.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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  • Today we have singled out John Howe, who has worked tirelessly to keep us engaged in and fascinated with textiles, with his help in enlisting speakers and collectors for the program, but most importantly, through his chronicling the series for more than ten years through his blog, Textiles and Text.
  • As these pieces of our museum’s history become part of our permanent library holdings, they will remain a valuable resource for those next generations who appreciate and understand the value of the world’s textiles as art and as expressions of culture.

Thank you John!

Tracy Meserve, the Textile Museum Librarian, who shepherded the archiving work spoke next.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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Tracy said after: “

I talked about how some of the blog entries from 2007-2009 were no longer readable on the blog. In order to save these entries from being lost to future generations, a work study student, Grace Krikie, was hired to archive all of the existing blog entries. All of this work resulted in both a digital pdf version of the blog that will have a permanent location on the museum website, and a physical copy that will be on display in the museum library that is over 1000 pages long!”

She was followed by Grace Krikie, who did the “heavy lifting” required to produce the pdf paper volumes.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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Grace talked about her process of retrieving the “lost” blog entries from a website called the Way Back Machine and then re-formatting these entries so they were in a readable form. She mentioned that the blog before re-formatting was thousands of pages long, so its current form of around 1000 pages is the condensed version.  She also talked about how working on this project increased her appreciation for rugs and textiles.

John: Both Textiles and Text and Eccentric Wefts have some search capabilities, but they are modest.  You can search for any word in the title of a given RTAM.  For example, you can search “Jerry Thompson” usefully.  If the type of textile treated is in the title you can find such posts.  Search for “Anatolian,” or “Central Asian” or “Turkman,” and the like.  You can also look through the posts under a given month and date, but that will be more arduous, since, often, more than one RTAM will be under a given month and date.

I had asked to say a few things and this was my turn.  I apologize, if I go on a bit, but there are some things I felt I had to say.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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First, I want to thank all the speakers at Textile Museum Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings, both for giving these programs, and for working with me, sometimes at considerable length, to fashion the virtual versions that have been published on Textiles and Text and that are now being archived by the Museum.

Next, I want to thank John Wetenhall, and Tom Goehner, and many other members of the Textile Museum staff, who have contributed to this archiving effort and have pressed it to completion.  Special thanks to the current TM Librarian, Tracy Meserve, and to Grace Kirkie, whom Tom reports, did the “heavy lifting” in the preparation of the pdf. booklets.  Lynora Williams, the former TM Librarian, worked hard in our early efforts to investigate archiving possibilities. 

I want, particularly, to thank Jim and Connie Henderson, who, speaking for many in the rug and textile community, pressed strongly for this archiving, and created the closest thing we have, so far, to a table of contents. 

I need also to thank by name, Peggy Jones, who has taken innumerable sets of RTAM notes for me and who wrote me, this week, saying that serious health problems prevent her from being here today.  Amy Rispin also took a lot of notes and worked with me, after, on some posts, most recently, on the two on the Opie session.

Third, I want to thank all the readers of Textiles and Text who constantly write me thanking me for these posts.  I am always a little surprised that they find them as useful as they say they do: I’m mostly just reporting and, although I try to get things right, I make no claims to authority.  The odd thing is that I like doing them so much that I would do them even if no one ever said “thank you.”

But what I mostly want to talk about is how great a role chance played in my coming to do this documenting at all.

Wendel and I knew Tom Stacy, whose wife, I think, created Turkotek.com,

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 TURKOTEK  

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an internet rug and textile discussion site.  And we were both members of a kind of founding Turkotek board, headed by Steve Price, when Tom passed the torch.

Wendel and I were early and frequent contributors to Turkotek.com, which goes on vigorously.

My first internet posts of TM Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs were made on Turkotek.com, where you can still find them.   

The first accidental aspect of my documenting RTAMs is that I began to do them without really thinking of what they might be.  

As an instructional designer, I was far more interested in designing Turkotek salons that focused on interesting textile questions and issues, and that structured and fostered useful conversation about them.  My first salon on Turkotek explored what sorts of irregularity in rugs and textiles were seen to enhance their aesthetic quality, and what sorts were simply weaving mistakes. 

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The “Oops” Thesis

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And I once built and conducted a Turkotek salon that attempted to determine whether the aesthetic theory portrayed in Christopher Alexander’s difficult book on his early Turkish carpets, “A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art,” could be given empirical test.

“Beauty” Determined: A Look at
Christopher Alexander’s Rug Aesthetics
by
Dr. Nikos A. Salingaros and R. John Howe

There was homework and a worksheet:

Rule Statement

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1. Does the carpet use a one-knot detail? If not, then it might work on some larger scale, but the smallest scale is being wasted.
2. Are the individual colors interesting in themselves, and are they juxtaposed so as to enhance each other?
3. Are the smallest elements defined sharply by using contrast in both color hue and gray scale value?
4. Are the smallest elements simple and symmetric in shape? (triangles, squares, and diamonds – no blobs)
5. Is every element coupled to a contrasting element of the same size that has complimentary qualities?
6. Do intermediate and larger elements show the maximum number of internal sub symmetries?
7. Is every internally complex element balanced by a plainer surrounding shape that has a coherent shape?
8. Is a random spacing of similar elements balanced by a regular, highly structured region of about the same size?
9. Do elements and interposed spaces of all sizes link to each other through similarity, symmetry and scaling?
10. Do different elements have sizes that define a discrete hierarchy with ratios approximately 2.7 between consecutive levels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

One of the earliest RTAMs I can find on Turkotek is a “potpourri” program that Wendel gave August 19, 2000 (as you can see, below, he was young and handsome, then, and not just dignified and distinguished). 

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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But there are other reports of RTAMs in Turkotek.com’s archives.  There is one on Turkmen Rugs by Dennis Dodds on November 3, 2001.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00083/salon.html

I don’t have a date but Fred Zimmerman and Michael Seidman gave an RTAM on “Other Ottomans,” a reference to another exhibition being held locally.  This RTAM drew on Textile Museum collection material (something we used to be able to do in some RTAMs).  It echoed an exhibition being given, then, at the Corcoran, across town.

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There was a subsequent RTAM given by Fred Zimmerman and Michael Seidman on December 7, 2001 on material from their own collections (as you have just seen, they had previously given annual RTAMs on material from the Textile Museum Collection).  

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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There is a “New Collectors” RTAM by Saul Barodofsky on June 15, 2002. 

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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Also in 2005, Joe Fell came from Chicago to share things from his “trunk.”  Here he’s talking with Harold Keshishian.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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In 2005, I put up on Turkotek an RTAM that Harold gave on safs.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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I don’t have a date, but once put up an RTAM on color given by Tom Xenakis, a serious painter, who also collects textiles.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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 I put up on Turkotek an RTAM that Harold Keshishian gave on Islamic Textiles, on April 15, 2006.  

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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In June, 2006 I put up an RTAM that David Zahirpour gave on Southwest Persian weavings.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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I gave an RTAM myself on Red in Rugs and Other Textiles, in March, 2007, that I also put up as a virtual version on Turkotek.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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And there is an RTAM given by Jerry Thompson, on September 8, 2007, a potpourri session on “Carpets from the Middle East.”

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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The last RTAM I put up on Turkotek was also in September, 2007 a program given by John Wertime on sumak bags.

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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There is even a TM-related but non-RTAM post on a Turkotek program.  Sara Wolf, who then held the Margaret Wing Dodge Chair in Conservation, here at the Textile Museum, gave on the perennial question of “Why Don’t Museums Provide Better Lighting?” 

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Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting and eyeglasses

A 2016 photo from the internet.

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I don’t have a precise date, but it’s early 2000, and Sara was brave to come and take what was certain to be a lot of abuse.

And there is another TM-related, non-RTAM post from the Textile Museum Rug Convention (October 12-14, 2001).  Jim Blackmon gave a program on “Those Other Central Asian Tribal Rugs: Uzbek, Karakalpak, Kyrgyz and Arab.”

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Courtesy Turkotek.com

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An early internet treatment, I think, of these non-Turkman Central Asian rugs and textiles.

So, I had a lot practice building RTAM posts, and things like them, during the years I was active on Turkotek.com.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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But then chance intervened.   I was an instructional designer for 40 years, and one of my instructional design colleagues, David Ferguson,

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who is computer-smart, said to me that I could have my own textile web site without much effort and, in 15 minutes, showed me how to use WordPress.com to do it.  This was perhaps the greatest accidental step.

WordPress.com is easy, and intuitive, and its technical, support staff describe themselves as “happiness engineers” for a reason.  And so, I began to make my own posts on Textiles and Text. 

Although discussion, with instant around-the-world comparisons, using images, can be wonderful, I saw, in Turkotek, that the monitoring task, if one allowed responses, was formidable.  A single person with a computer could destroy useful conversation, and the effort to prevent that, in some way, was not how I wanted to spend my time. 

So, I opted for a one-way conversation.  I gave an email address to which readers could write, if they thought they had something important to consider, but I retained, for myself, whether and how, I would use such responses.

My first post on Textiles and Text was of an RTAM that Dennis Dodds gave on December 13, 2007 on Anatolian yastiks.  

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dennise.jpg

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I always have more than 20 posts in various stages of development, (I took a look and there are, currently 46) and some will, likely, never be published. 

But I don’t give up easily.  I have published a post, usefully, I think, six years after the session itself. 

I have published 135 posts to date (more, if you count the posts on my Eccentric Wefts site). 

I have over 500 subscribers and send post announcements to an international email list of over 400 addresses.  Some these addresses are for clubs who can pass on my posts to their members.  So there is, sometimes, a cascade effect.

And it has been, and is, a joy. 

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I decided, early, that there would be no deadlines.  I’m retired, and most speakers have jobs and lives.  I try to make everything as easy as I can for speakers, and thank them, lavishly, and appropriately, for helping me fashion Textile and Text posts.  And they have been generous.

And so, now, there is this unexpected recognition.  It has happened before.  The late Russell Pickering was a great admirer of my two textile-related sites and engineered for me, shortly before his death, a McMullan Award.

As I said to him, as he presented it to me, “I’m really appreciative, but I think you’ve made a mistake.”  I feel that same way, here, today.

Thank you.

Two last things. 

First, the Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning programs have been going on for many years.  And this series is frequently described as a “core” TM program.  When Virginia Delfico

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Virginia Delfico and Harold Keshishian

Photo Courtesy of Barry O’Connell

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was, what was then called the Education Director, she said that she was told, coming into that job, that the “rug mornings” were sacred, and the presumption was that there would be one on most Saturdays. 

Some of us, who know what the work of producing RTAMs is like, are in awe of Virginia’s performance.  For 11 years, she would often have five RTAMs in a month with five Saturdays, and it was rare for her to have only three in a given month. 

But the local cadre of RTAMs speakers has thinned out and it’s now difficult to put on two a month, steadily. 

Part of that problem is that we have no predictable budget to draw on to pay for speaker travel expenses.  We are usually able to put up visiting speakers in interesting, even sumptuous textile collector homes, but it is a predictable travel expense fund that we lack. 

So, without wanting to seem ungrateful for the investment that has been made to archive my Textile and Text posts, I want to plead that we conspire anew to arrange a modest travel budget ($6K-$8K) annually to make it more likely that quality RTAMs will continue to be produced.

A second last thing is whether and how the TM wants this documenting of RTAMs to go on.  I plan to do what I’ve done for as long as I can.

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Photo: Harrison Jones / The George Washington University

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I turned 83 this week, published two posts on July 4, and Wendel and I are near completion on another on Swedish textiles, but the question of institutionalizing the documentation of RTAMs is an increasingly real one. 

Years ago, Dan Walker and I talked about whether this documentation could be taken into the TM staff.  Dan said that there were advantages associated with doing that, but that he thought it was best done by an interested volunteer.  But if, this documenting is to go on, some arrangement needs to be made. 

There are some modest skills required, but they are within the reach of most of us. And I am willing to train someone. 

Perhaps the most difficult thing to find is someone who has the time and interest to do it.  I don’t have a solution, but something needs to be done, and the time available for doing it is getting shorter.

Thank you, again, for this very nice gesture,

John

Now, as I said, at the beginning, this was a real “potpourri-type” RTAM and a lot of material was brought in.  To see that you need to use this link:

https://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/2019/08/21/celebration-of-the-documenting-and-archiving-of-many-of-the-rug-and-textile-appreciation-morning-programs-part-2/

There are some addenda to Part 1 below.

Addendum 1

Readers and, especially researchers need to be aware of some distinctions that are created by this Textile Museum archiving my Textile and Text posts. 

First, these posts were first documented on my wordpress.com site Textiles and Text and Eccentric Wefts.  They are still there and you can reach them directly.

Textiles and Text

https://rjohnhowe.wordpress.com/

Eccentric Wefts

https://raymondj.wordpress.com/

The TM archived version of those posts are an edited version. 

The TM began this archiving by creating an edited electronic and also paper-based pdf of what was on my two sites. 

The archived version so far includes all of the posts made on both Textiles and Text and Eccentric Wefts from their inception in 2007 to a post on a session given by David Zahirpour in January, 2019. This archived pdf version is available in paper-based copy in the TM Library.

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Important: This archiving was the first of several that the TM has undertaken.  They will now move to these other archiving tasks and will not be archiving any further Textiles and Text post for perhaps two years.  This is important because there have already been noteworthy posts since January, 2019 on both Textiles and Text and Eccentric Wefts and these posts can ONLY but accessed with the two links above.

It is also useful to note that it is the edited, archived version that is linked to the TM’s web site.

https://museum.gwu.edu/rug-mornings

Tracy said the following about editing:

“Very little editing was done other than formatting changes and images being resized. I think a few pictures were omitted if there were multiple images of the same item. The text was completely unchanged.”

John: It appears that the archived version does not include the black ground white type format of the sites but if you click on a given image you will be taken to it and seem also to have access to larger images (again by clicking on them).  When editing puts images side-by-side the width of the initial image is reduced to 250 pixels.  Larger versions may be available on the original wordpress.com posts.

 

Addendum 2

The Origins of the Rug and Textile Appreciation Mornings (RTAMs) Are Uncertain

Harold Keshishian,

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is widely seen to have been an originator of the RTAMs and a central force in their continuation and success.  The Textile Museum has recognized Harold’s predominance over the years by naming this series for him.

But I spent a lot of time, during his last years, with Harold’s friend, Russ Pickering

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who said that things were not that simple: that others were involved.

And at a fairly recent RTAM, looking back on this series, a different remembrance and account surfaced.

Wendel Swan was facilitating, and noted that the exact beginnings of the RTAM programs are a bit obscure, even sometimes debated, but that we had one resource in the room, who actually attended the first RTAM (then called the “rug morning” program).  He asked Phyllis Kane, who had attended the first “rug morning” session,

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PhyllisKane

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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

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HaroldandMelissa(Harold and his wife Melissa)

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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. 

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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 time.  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, and returned to find chairs being brought in to accommodate standees.  It was clear that the RTAM programs were a success.

So, as you can see, history is very shallow and memories vary.  However they started, the RTAM programs have gone on for a long time and have, I think, have been in important TM outreach effort, initially, mostly to the DC area, but now with the use of the internet, internationally.

 

Addendum 3

(The links below may or may not be “live.”  If they are not, you need to copy them and paste them into your browser.)

Links to RTAMs Put Up on Turkotek.com

John Wertime on Sumak Bags

http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00018/salon.html

Jerry Thompson “Potpourri on Carpets from the Middle East”

http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00017/salon.html

Ed Zimmerman and Michael Seidman on “Other Ottomans,: using TM Collection material.

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00044/salon.html

Wendel Swan gave a “Potpourri” RTAM

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00050/salon.html

Dennis Dodds on “Turkmen Rugs”

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00083/salon.html

Saul Barodofsky on “Younger Textiles Can Be Good”

http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00003/discussion.htm/

Ed Zimmerman and Michael Seidman on Pieces from Their Own Collections

http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00008/discussion.html

Joe Fell on “Some of My Favorite Things from My Trunk

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00094/salon.html

Harold Keshishian on “Safs”

http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00027/content.html

Tom Xenakis, a painter and textile collector on “A Painter Looks at Color in Oriental Rugs and Textiles.”

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00112/salon.html

Harold Keshishian on “Islamic Textiles”

http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00012/salon.html

David Zahirpour on Southwest Persian Textiles

http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00048/zahirpour.htm

John Howe on “Red in Rugs and Other Textiles”

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00118/salon.html

Jerry Thompson: “Potpourri on Carpets from the Middle East”

http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00017/salon.html

John Wertime on Sumak Bags

http://www.turkotek.com/mini_salon_00018/salon.html

Links to Non-RTAM But TM-Related Posts Put Up on Turkotek.com

Sara Wolf on “Why Don’t Museums Provide Better Lighting?”

http://www.turkotek.com/salon_00058/salon.html

Jim Blackmon on “Those Other Central Asian Rugs: Uzbek, Karakalpak, Khirghiz and Arab”

http://turkotek.com/salon_00078/salon.html

TM Exhibition: Navajo Blankets from the 19th Century

http://www.turkotek.com/misc_00014/navajo_blankets.htm

TM Exhibition of 16th-17th Century Persian Fragments

http://turkotek.com/misc_00058/fragments.htm

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