The move by the 88-year-old Textile Museum from its historic DuPont Circle home to the campus of George Washington University has been heralded as visionary. The $33 million project is also dauntingly ambitious — starting with the question: How do you move a collection of 19,000 items, some dating back thousands of years? The answer hinges on a custom database, systems for matting and transporting items to a 22,000-square-foot satellite GW campus and, of course, lots of boxes.
“For those who know and love the Textile Museum, now is the time to visit our historic buildings, tour the beautiful grounds and see our last exhibition before the S Street venue closes,” says John Wetenhall, who was appointed director of the Textile Museum and the new George Washington University Museum in April. “In the months ahead, we look forward to announcing a schedule of programs on campus in preparation for this exciting move.”
Construction of the Ashburn facility for storage and conservation is expected to conclude later this year, with the physical transfer of much of the collection to begin in early 2014 and continue for several months.
At the Foggy Bottom campus, the foundation walls are finished, the highest structural beam will be placed this month, and construction on the 35,000-square-foot museum (of which the Textile Museum is the anchor) is expected to be finished by spring 2014. The move — of both collections and staff — is expected to take six months, and the new museum is scheduled to open to the public in late fall 2014.
The final exhibition at the S street location, “Out of Southeast Asia: Art that Sustains,” closes Oct. 13. The historic buildings, once home to museum founder George Hewitt Myers, will remain open through the holiday season, as will the museum shop. “Advocacy Quilts: A Voice for the Voiceless,” a showing of eight narrative quilts, runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 1. The S street building is on the market for sale, and proceeds will go to the Textile Museum endowment. Course collaborations, between the museum and the student body, are being developed for 2014.
The first exhibitions in the new space have not been announced but will relate to textiles and identity worldwide, say museum officials. Included will be a focus on Washington in the Revolutionary and Civil wars with the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection. Later exhibitions will include a show of contemporaneous pieces from the museum’s collection.