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History of Fashion
> Museum for Fashion and Textile
American Textile History Museum
The American Textile History Museum | Caroline Stevens Rogers, a member of a venerable textile industry family and a handweaver and dyer in her own right, founded the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum in North Andover, Massachusetts in 1960. Today, the Museum has expanded its mission, changed its name, and since 1997 has occupied the historic 150,000 square foot Kitson Manufacturing Company building adjacent to the Lowell National Historical Park.,br> As an independently operated not for profit institution, the Museum collaborates with the National Park Service sites in Lowell, but maintains independent governance and collections. The Museum depends upon private support to fund its activities and programs.
During its first thirty years, the Museum documented the woolen, cotton, flax and silk industries in New England and beyond through its collections of pre-industrial tools, powered industrial era machinery, flat textiles and the rich collections of its Osborne Library.
The Museum supported research and publication, hosted conferences, presented exhibitions and public programming. It also developed a model program with the public schools of neighboring Lawrence, Massachusetts. In 1977, the Textile Conservation Center was established as a department of the Museum.
By the mid 1980s, under the directorship of Tom Leavitt, the Museum set out to expand its public dimension via exhibitions and expanded museum educational programming for schools and the general public. It also sought to bring its extensive collections into a single, unified curatorial and storage facility.
In 1992, the Museum purchased the Kitson Building in Lowell, began a fundraising campaign, and led by then director Paul Rivard renovated the building, developed and installed the Textiles in America exhibition, assembled the collections, expanded its educational services to include the Lowell Public Schools, and initiated the special changing exhibitions program. As the Museum looks forward to the future under the leadership of Michael J. Smith, director since 2000, it can justly say that it has come a long way from its beginnings in the collection of spinning wheels and other preindustrial tools that Caroline Stevens Rogers set out to preserve toward being an integral and dynamic presence for the general public, for scholars and for the textile industry.
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