The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A wonderful collection in Boston

Does the name Elizabeth Day McCormick mean anything to you?  Well perhaps if you are a fan of wonderful samplers it might well do, because the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston now holds her collection of over 4,000 textiles and what a collection it is!

At one time you could see the samplers on line but for some reason I can only find two now!  Here I go again moaning about museums giving textiles such a low priority, but they do infuriate me so. Why go to the bother of photographing and producing a catalogue, putting everything online for a short while and then drop it? Grrrr.  However, you can still buy the catalogue which will at least give you a taster click here for the link.

I save images as I trawl the net and then of course I have no idea where I found them - no matter, our luck is in because here is a close up of a section of my very favourite band sampler from this fabulous collection -

The colours in this image aren't quite right (for some reason what should be pale pink has come out turquoise) but oh isn't it wonderful? I only wish I had an image of the whole sampler to show you but this is the best band and the one I would love to be able to sew!

The sampler is English mid 1600's and made by Hannah Thornbush -  isn't that a lovely name?  It is approximately 33 inches long and 7 wide and worked in all the popular stitches found on these samplers - couching, cross, detached buttonhole, double running, eyelet, long armed cross, Montenegrin, running and satin.  It is so crunchy, I just love it!

I have been trying to find out about Elizabeth Day McCormick and if possible a picture, but again I can't find much but this -

Born into a wealthy Chicago family, Elizabeth Day McCormick (1873-1957) dedicated her life and considerable means to collecting textiles, focusing on European needlework, costumes, and costume accessories from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Between 1943 and 1953, she donated approximately 6,000 objects to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA). Gertrude Townsend (1893-1979), the museum's first textiles curator, worked closely with McCormick to encourage her patronage, manage the donation, and research and interpret objects in the collection. McCormick and the MFA serve as a case study for exploring the relationship between collectors and museums, and what happens when a collection is transferred from private to public ownership and an individual's taste becomes institutional fact. The relationship of McCormick and Townsend also highlights how female networks of collectors, professionals, philanthropists, and enthusiasts influenced museum development, particularly in relation to textile and costume collections. Overall, the conviction that museums reflect intellectual and social priorities of their time drives this thesis, and this case study begins to dissect the institutional authority cultivated by museums.

Isn't it a shame that we can't see this collection online?   Writing to museums doesn't work, if you get a reply you are lucky and nothing much changes. You just have to hope that they get around to textiles eventually when they have spent money on all the other boring exhibits!


regan said...

I was just on the MFA website, and looked for Mrs. McCormick's collection. They have over 5,000 items listed, but the majority have no picture! And so much information is not given for the ones that do have a picture. You're right, it's very frustrating. I do appreciate the option to zoom in on the pictures that they have given. That helps, a little. I just think it would have been very easy to add descriptions, and dimensions, when they were cataloging the items. They had the item at hand; couldn't they have taken a ruler to it!?! Some of the beaded pieces are lovely, and I can imagine they are quite small. The samplers that they do have a picture of are beautiful.

I did not see anywhere on the site if these items are on display or not. It's about a 3 hour drive for me, and I'd love to see them, but if they only have a handful of items out, it would be disappointing. I wish their site was more helpful.

Little Welsh Quilts and other traditions said...

Hi Regan,

You got futher than me, I only found two samplers, yet I know that a few years ago they were all there and you could zoom and see so much detail.

I don't think any are on display as samplers are usually only brought out on request. I visited the museum a couple of years ago and didn't see any on display and because I wasn't sure of timing I hadn't contacted the museum, so that was my fault.

I always think museum websites are confusing and I get very frustrated using them. Even if you know what you are looking for you can't find it!

It's a wonderful museum though, really enjoyed my visit though it was going through major building work at the time.