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American Textile History Museum

The American Textile History Museum is located 35 miles northwest of Boston, at 491 Dutton Street, in Lowell, Massachusetts. One of the largest textile museums in the nation, its main aim is to tell America’s story through the art, and science of textile. On display are thousands of books, trade catalogs, business records and personal papers, prints and photographs, a growing costume collection, and millions of textiles samples. Founded in 1960 by Caroline Stevens Rogers, a hand weaver and dyer, the museum was initially known as the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum and was located in North Andover, Massachusetts. For the first 30 years, the museum documented the woolen, cotton, flax, and silk industries in New England. Later, the museum expanded its activities through exhibitions and educational programs, under the directorship of Tom Leavitt. Presently, it is housed within the historic 150,000-square-foot Kitson Manufacturing Company, adjacent to the Lowell National Historical Park. A wealth of information on textile art, factory architecture, textile production, technological invention, labor history, industrial organization, and the everyday life of mill towns are available here. One of the most important collections in the museum is a small Jacquard-woven portrait of Christopher Columbus, made in 1892, by the Arlington Mills in Lawrence, to memorialize the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America. It was also the first textile artifact acquired by the museum, in 1959. Textile collections also include blankets, coverlets, sheets, towels, floor coverings, and other household textiles, each reflecting the skill and creativity of American hand weavers. Displayed in the costume section is an array of garments worn by Americans from the 18th through the 20th centuries. In addition, a broad range of objects from 18th-century hand-powered tools and equipment to present-day factory machines employed in textile manufacture are included in the museum’s collections. The library at the museum, Osborne Museum, houses a comprehensive collection of printed, pictorial, and manuscript materials. Pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, government documents, engineering drawings, stereographs, and labels and advertisements are some of the items in the collection.