It’s hard to say who’ll be more delighted at the groundbreaking for the 35,000-square-foot George Washington University museum next week — GWU officials, or those from Washington’s 87-year-old Textile Museum, who are vacating their historic home near Dupont Circle and moving the collection to Foggy Bottom to become the cornerstone of the new space.
The move, announced last year and scheduled to be completed in 2014, when the museum is expected to open, provides the Textile Museum with more exhibition space, a more central location and a new art-storage facility at George Washington’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn. And it gives GWU art history, anthropology and museum studies students the chance to engage with a renowned 19,000-item collection.
“We’re going to be an exciting story,” says Bruce Baganz, president of the Textile Museum’s board. He points out that while much of the museum world has faced financial tumult and fights over sustainability, the Textile Museum has a solid following and has operated with a balanced budget for years.
“It’s a powerful potential new model of how 21st- century museums develop and are driven by new visions,” says the Textile Museum’s interim director, W. Richard West Jr. The Textile Museum will remain open in its current location until late next year, but the process of surveying the collection to make decisions about how to conserve and pack it is nearly halfway completed.
The chance for students to engage with material cultures from thousands of years ago accounts for much of the excitement for GWU officials. “This isn’t just like going out and forming a partnership,” says GWU President Steven Knapp. “This is bringing the museum where it’s going to be part of the intellectual life of the university as a whole. It’s good for the museum and our university because it will help broaden what it means to be educated at the George Washington University.”
The Sultan’s Garden: The Blossoming
of Ottoman Art
has just opened and runs through March 10 at
the Textile Museum, 2320 S St. NW.