The George Washington University Museum & The Textile Museum Receives Record $25 Million Gift

Anonymous donation will transform and sustain efforts to preserve and celebrate textile art as global cultural heritage

A smiling group of three women and two men stand in a line. There is a colorful textile hanging on the wall behind them.
From left: Eliza Ward, development director for the museum; Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Donna Arbide; Provost Christopher Alan Bracey; President Granberg; Bruce Baganz, chairman of The Textile Museum board. Photo by Dave Scavone.
September 13, 2023


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WASHINGTON (September 13, 2023)—The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum today announced a $25 million endowment gift from an anonymous donor, the single largest investment in the museum’s history. The bulk of the gift, $24 million in endowment funds, will provide long-term support for textile conservation, curatorial scholarship and educational initiatives. The remaining $1 million will fund priority projects and equipment as the museum prepares for its centennial celebration in 2025. 

“This extremely generous gift will have a transformational impact on The Textile Museum,” GW President Ellen Granberg said. “The museum is recognized as a center of excellence for the international prominence of its collections, its academic mission and its global community. These funds will allow us to expand our leading work in textile collections care, scholarship and museum training for generations to come.” 

Twelve million dollars in endowed funds for conservation and curatorial engagement will underwrite students and visiting scholars, advance research and scholarship, and support the museum’s Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center on GW’s Virginia Science and Technology campus. The  conservation lab preserves more than 25,000 textiles in the collections and prepares them for display in museum exhibitions. It also serves aspiring conservators through training programs and graduate fellowships. 


A man in a blue shirt holds up a chart in front of a group of students.

Director John Wetenhall (center) is among the staff at The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum who teach and mentor GW students interested in pursuing museum careers. Photo by Cara Taylor/the George Washington University.

Another $12 million establishes a new endowment to support onsite museum education and broaden global reach through digital initiatives, ensuring the museum continues to be an integral part of teaching, research and learning at GW and beyond. 

“This extraordinary gift acknowledges the worldwide relevance of our museum’s collections, invests in our museum professionals, and recognizes our responsibility to share, collaborate and facilitate access to global heritage,” said John Wetenhall, director of The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. “It also signals an investment in the future of textiles: training the next generation of scholars and museum professionals, and expanding the museum’s audience through digital learning.” 


A brunette woman in a lab coat inspects a colorful textile.

Maria Fusco, Chief Conservator and Margaret Wing Dodge Chair of Conservation, oversees the conservation lab at the museum’s Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center. Photo by William Atkins/the George Washington University.

The endowment will also fund the hardware, software and staffing to activate The  Textile Museum Collection online, focusing special support on interpretation by students, faculty, and independent researchers. These endeavors will  also assure the preservation and dissemination of digital images of collection  artworks and the archives of leading textile scholars. 

Additional priorities include appointing a new educator dedicated to engaging faculty and students, as well as creating academic courses and paid student positions. Endowed  funds also will support museum staff professional development. 

The $1 million for centennial projects will fund new equipment for conservation, enhancements to the Textiles 101 learning center, technology to facilitate virtual programming and preserve the museum’s digital resources, and other immediate needs. 

Over nearly 100 years, The Textile Museum has gained an international reputation for excellence in research, exhibitions and educational programs that explore textile art as global cultural heritage, with collections spanning five continents and five millennia. The museum’s conservation program has been a pioneer in innovative practices in textile care and providing specialized training for conservators. The Textile Museum reopened in its new home at the George Washington University in 2015, bringing new opportunities to invigorate research and scholarship, transform collections care and prepare the next generation of museum professionals. 

“This remarkable donor’s generosity ensures The Textile Museum of enduring reach as it addresses the key challenge of cultivating successive generations of those who appreciate textiles as art and cultural heritage,” said Bruce P. Baganz, chairman of The Textile Museum’s board of trustees and co-chair of the George Washington University Museum’s board. “This investment fundamentally advances our aspirations for the museum’s international leadership in art, scholarship, education and fostering cultural understanding.” 

About the Museum

The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum is located on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus at 701 21st Street, NW, in Washington, D.C., just blocks away from the Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, the White House, Kennedy Center and the National Mall. Galleries are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free.