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The Textile Collection


Part of the University’s Special Collections, the Textile and Costume Collection is a remarkably diverse and wide-ranging, museum-quality collection used for teaching, inspiration, research and scholarship.

Aside from a group of about 145 Coptic textiles dating as early as the 1st century A.D. and a smaller group of Pre-Columbian textiles from the 12th to 14th centuries, the collection dates primarily from the 17th century to the present, with a few European chasubles, some lace, and smaller European and Persian textile fragments comprising the bulk of the earliest items. The majority of the garment and accessory collection, as well as the Western and non-Western flat textile collection, dates from the mid-18th century onward. The largest elements of the collection are 19th- and 20th-century in date, including most of the lace collection, the industrial swatches, swatch books, traditional and non-Western garments, interiors furnishing samples, and tools and technology-related artifacts.

A particular strength of the collection is textiles and garments manufactured or owned in the Philadelphia region. These artifacts range from the John Hewson quilt block and a Germantown stocking knitting frame of the 18th century to early 20th-century upholstery samples from the Orinoka mills, 19th- and 20th-century carpet samples from Joseph Lomax and Hugh Nelson, 1920s carpet point papers by Philadelphia designer J. G. Speck, and 19th-century furnishing trims and braids from F.W. Maurer & Sons of Germantown.

The collection is housed in the Goldie Paley House, a 1955 “modern-rancher-style” residence, designed by Earle Bolton, Jr. for Blanche Paley Levy’s in-laws, Ike and Rita Levy. Bolton himself described the style as a “Hollywood ranch.”  Called The Design Center at Jefferson, the building is owned and operated by the University.