Constructed in 1936, Quinn Hall serves not only as an academic building, but as the site of URI’s Historic Textile & Costume Collection. The Textile Gallery, which showcases the collection, was the result of extensive fundraising and renovation leading up to its 1999 inception. This unique collection, consisting of a variety of textiles, clothing, and accessories, is managed by the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design (TMD).
The Historic Textile and Costume Collection is among the largest of its kind. The collection is nearly 30,000 items strong, featuring a vast array of objects including clothing, textiles, linens, and even textile manufacturing tools. A significant portion of the collection consists of historical pieces that were made and worn by Rhode Island families when the state was one of the largest textile manufacturers in the country. Many of these pieces were generously donated by local families such as the Browning Family and the Howland Family. Hundreds of articles of clothing, ethnic dress, historic textiles, and accessories were also donated by Mary Cecelia Whitlock, who started the collection. Other pieces of the collection originated far from the Ocean State, such as one of the collection’s oldest and most fascinating artifacts: a six thousand-year-old fragment of linen from an Egyptian tomb.
The TMD department goes to great lengths to maintain this remarkable collection. Graduate students work alongside textile conservators such as Collections Manager Susan Jerome to curate the many artifacts. Students are also given the opportunity to create new exhibitions each year, which provides them with historical knowledge and textile conservation experience. The work done by the students and faculty in the TMD department serves not only to preserve the history and science of textiles, but also to offer the URI community the chance to view artifacts that can be found nowhere else on Earth.
To learn more about the TMD department’s collections and gallery, visit their page on the URI website: