Textiles: The Bridge between Cultures

The Bridge

The Thrums Books virtual gallery and museum tour has traveled around the world over the last year, from Oaxaca to Toronto, from Colorado and Arizona to points beyond. We’ve introduced you (or perhaps just reminded you) of some fabulous textile collections far afield and maybe in your own back yard. This month we’re heading to Madison, Wisconsin, where inside the University of Wisconsin’s school of Human Ecology lives the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.

Remnant of a shirt front, Afghanistan, early 20th century. Photo courtesy of the HLATC, University of Wisconsin.

Between Cultures

This is an expansive global collection of more than 13,000 pieces, representing textiles from six continents spanning nearly 3,000 years. Helen Louise Allen was a professor at the University of Wisconsin who traveled extensively, collecting and learning about textiles as she went. Her passion for ethnographic textiles led her to be a pioneer in using historical and anthropological perspectives in the study of textiles. She believed that textiles were a bridge between cultures. Her impressive personal collection of about 4,000 pieces, to which the University has added several thousand more, continues to inspire and educate students and scholars.

Knitted ch’uspa from Peru, 1930s. Photo courtesy of the HLATC, University of Wisconsin.

Specific items from the Helen Louise Allen Collection are on view year-round in the Lynn Mecklenburg Reading Room and the University has done a standout job in providing a searchable online database of much of the Collection. And if you’re in town, you can schedule a visit or research any objects in the collection by appointment.

Handwoven cloth from Laos, early to mid 20th century. Photo courtesy of the HLATC, University of Wisconsin.

Thank you U-W Madison school of Human Ecology for maintaining and expanding this significant collection of textiles—a true bridge between cultures.
Remember, if you know of a museum or gallery with a special textile collection that we should share with our readers, be sure to let us know: info@thrumsbooks.com


Did you notice that we featured photos of textiles from Afghanistan, Peru, and Laos? Must have something to do with the books we’re working on now!
A  Thrums Book is probably the perfect companion to your next textile museum visit. Check them out.

2 thoughts on “Textiles: The Bridge between Cultures

    • Karen Brock says:

      Hi, Elizabeth.
      You can purchase Oaxaca Stories in Cloth through Clothroads.com (they have some autographed copies) or on Amazon. Your favorite local bookshop can order it for you as well.

      Thanks so much for your interest,


Comments are closed.

Malcare WordPress Security