Indigenous Americas

Detail of ceremonial mantle, North America
Ceremonial mantle (detail), North America, northwest coast, possibly Chilkat River area Tlingit, mid- to late-19th century. Cedar bark, mountain goat hair, 135 x 155.5 cm. The Textile Museum 1964.47.1. Gift of Alan R. Sawyer.

The Textile Museum's extraordinary holdings of pre-Hispanic Peruvian textiles rank with the best collections in the world. The earliest substantial grouping is of Chavin-style examples dating between 900 and 600 BCE. Particularly outstanding are:

  • a large group of textiles and other objects found together at Ocucaje in the south coast's Ica valley;
  • representative groups of Paracas- and Nasca-style textiles;
  • the world's best collection of Huari tapestry tunics and fragments, dating to the eighth and ninth centuries.

The museum also has extensive holdings from later periods, including an exceptional collection of Colonial Peruvian tapestries and many examples of the Ica, Chancay, and Chimu styles on the coast, and Inca textiles from the highlands. Many of these pieces have information about the sites where they were found, making them more useful for scholarship. 

The museum also has extensive holdings of modern textiles that descend from pre-Hispanic traditions, including one of North America's largest Guatemalan collections, which represents more than seventy-five highland towns and includes many complete costumes. An effort has been made to acquire textiles of varying dates, to demonstrate stylistic changes over time. Although the Mexican collection is less complete, it includes some outstanding rare pieces. The collection of Kuna appliqué blouses (molas) is substantial as well. 

The museum's representative holdings of nineteenth- and twentieth-century textiles from the Andean areas of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia are more extensive than any other North American museum. Many of these pieces were collected by anthropologists working in these areas.

On View

Detail of pillar rug from the museum's collections

Selections from The Textile Museum Collections

You can always find a rotating selection of objects from The Textile Museum collections on view in the museum's lower-level galleries, including many objects that have rarely or never before been displayed.

Expansive Visions: GW Collection Past, Present, Future

Organized by GW's Luther Brady Art Gallery and presented in the museum's lower-level galleries, this exhibition traces GW's history and evolution as a presenter of contemporary art through highlights from the university collection.