Major Gift Provides State-of-the-Art Equipment, New Name for the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum’s Collections and Conservation Center in Virginia

Avenir Foundation’s $5 Million Gift Will Enhance Museum’s Commitment to Caring for and Studying Textiles with New Technology, Endowments

May 26, 2016

Photo of building exterior

Kurie Fitzgerald: [email protected], 202-994-6461
Brett Zongker: [email protected], 202-994-6466

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2016)—A $5 million gift from the Avenir Foundation will provide state-of-the-art conservation equipment and technology to enhance long-term care for the 20,000-piece Textile Museum collection at the George Washington University. In recognition of the foundation’s generous contribution, GW announced Thursday that it will name the museum’s collections storage and conservation facility the Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center.
The gift will enable the museum to purchase updated equipment for the care and study of its collections, including a specialized vacuum cleaner for gently cleaning textiles and a high-powered microscope for analyzing weave structures of particular pieces. The gift also creates an endowment that will fund conservation staff, training for conservators and operational costs for the conservation lab.
“This significant gift from the Avenir Foundation helps us continue our work to ensure the long-term conservation of historical textiles,” said Dr. John Wetenhall, director of the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum. “The textiles in our collections highlight the stories of diverse populations around the world. We are committed to preserving these textiles as we continue to showcase one of the world’s premiere collections of textiles.”
The gift is among the largest to the museum, which opened in a new building on the university’s Foggy Bottom Campus in 2015. The museum’s Avenir Foundation Conservation and Collections Resource Center is located at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. In addition to providing collections care, the center is part of the museum's commitment to engage the GW academic community in collaboration and research.
The first installment of the gift from the Avenir Foundation, received in 2014, enabled the museum to purchase custom storage cabinetry for its collections. The 2014 gift also increased the endowment for the Margaret Wing Dodge Chair of Conservation, established by the foundation in 1997 at The Textile Museum.
"The Textile Museum was a pioneer in creating one of the first textile conservation programs in the United States,” said Dr. Bruce P. Baganz, co-chair of the George Washington University Museum Board of Trustees and president of The Textile Museum Board of Trustees. “Through the generosity of the Avenir Foundation, The Textile Museum will grow its reputation as an international leader in textile conservation.”
In March, the foundation finalized its $5 million commitment with a gift of $2.19 million, which will be used to establish the Avenir Foundation Endowment for Textile Museum Conservation. The endowment fund will support the work of conservators, fellows and interns. The gift will also underwrite the purchase of equipment for textile conservation, analysis, collections management and photography.
Based in Lakewood, Colorado, the Avenir Foundation has been a supporter of the museum since 1994.
Current Exhibitions
Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora,” is a juried and invitational exhibition where 44 artists share personal and universal stories of migration—from historic events that scattered communities across continents to today’s accounts of migrants and refugees adapting to a new homeland. The exhibition is co-organized with Studio Art Quilt Associates and with assistance from GW’s Diaspora Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs. The exhibition is open through Sept. 4.
“A Collector’s Vision: Creating the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection” will continue through winter 2017. In July, the exhibition will show a dozen new pieces from Mr. Small's unrivaled collection of more than 1,000 maps and prints. In 2011, Mr. Small donated to GW his collection—including rare letters, photographs, and drawings that document the history of Washington, D.C. This exhibition presents highlights of the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, including Mr. Small's first acquisition—a handwritten 1905 scrapbook of a survey of the city's boundary stones—and other items that explore what motivates individuals to collect.
For the Record: The Art of Lily Spandorf,” is a collaborative exhibition with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The exhibition examines the career and journalism of artist Lily Spandorf, whose ink and watercolor paintings, as well as sketches, documented D.C.’s transformation and news events from 1960 to 2000. The exhibition is open through July 3. 
Upcoming Exhibitions
Just in time for the 2016 election season, the “Your Next President . . . ! The Art of Campaigning From the Mark and Rosalind Shenkman Collection” exhibition opens on Sept. 3. The exhibition features rare campaign flags and patriotic textiles from the Mark and Rosalind Shenkman Collection that illustrate how presidential campaigning developed in the 19th century. Additional pieces from the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection broaden the story.
Opening Nov. 5, the “Bingata! Only in Okinawa” exhibition is a special showing of Okinawan textile treasures. The exhibition, organized in partnership with the Okinawa Prefectural Government, will feature brightly colored bingata—traditional resist-dyed fabrics—and contemporary works by Okinawan artists and fashion designers.