My name is Tom Gaehner and I’m the Curator
of Education here at the Textile Museum. The Textile Museum is such a special place. I
don’t know where else you could go and find out from beginning to end, what textiles are
made of, what cultures produce them, and why they are significant. Our world is surrounded,
from head to toe virtually, with textiles. You can answer all those basic questions and
at the same time have a sense of delight in discovering something beautiful. This space
is our Textile Learning Center and it’s equipped with a variety of looms and visual pieces
that people can come to and have a full tactile experience. The Corner Stoners Showcase program
that we love and has been running for over 30 years now is our celebration of textiles.
This big open house where we showcase everything from sheep shearing, and then you can see
the wool being carded, cleaned, spun – we call it from sheep to shawl. It’s great and
there are a bunch of hands on activities. A lot of kids today don’t really have an intimate
relationship with their textiles. You’d be surprised how many don’t sew, don’t weave;
never made those little pot holders that you and I did when we were kids. This is all new
territory for them. I would be amiss to say that I do this all alone, but I am not a solo
act. I rely heavily on volunteers and docent?s. If the passion for textiles, here at this
museum, is the heart, the volunteers and docents are the muscle. They get everything done.
The museum for the past 10 years or more has been working with DC public schools. We send
docents to the school and they teach a lesson on basic textiles. They come back periodically
to help them with a project which turns into a banner that goes on exhibit here at the
museum. They are able to come to the museum, see the
art that’s on the wall and then transmit some of that into their own art project with the
help of our docents and the museum.
Certainly the future of the textile museum and it?s educational programs is going to
have to expand and include more young people so that we can get that next generation in
here and appreciating the textiles that make such a major part of their culture that they
may not even be aware of. I certainly hope that after they leave our museum and experience
the textiles on exhibit and our own learning center that they will see what a huge role
textiles play in their everyday lives.