Library exhibit explores fraught history of textile industry

“Marguerite, a former slave,” is all which is known of the hanging impression of a girl in a green gown in Cornell University Library’s Loewentheil Collection of African-American Pictures.

But the woman’s pose, gaze and garments inform a wealthy tale of creative imagination and self-determination, said Tamika Nunley, affiliate professor of history in the College or university of Arts and Sciences (A&S).

This advertising poster for the exhibit “Social Fabric: Land, Labor, and Planet the Textile Sector Created” attributes an image of Marguerite from Cornell College Library’s Loewentheil Assortment of African-American Photographs.

“It’s not considerably-fetched that Marguerite manufactured that elaborate gown herself or picked it for herself in distinction to the coarse, shapeless garment that plantation proprietors procured for enslaved men and women to have on,” she mentioned.

Marguerite embodies “what self-fashioning appeared like from slavery to the changeover to legal emancipation,” mentioned Nunley, who contributed to the exhibit “Social Cloth: Land, Labor, and World the Textile Industry Developed,” which opens Oct. 27 in the Hirshland Gallery of Carl A. Kroch Library.

“Social Fabric” characteristics people like Marguerite and other men and women and destinations that supported the textile business in the U.S. in the course of the 19th and 20th hundreds of years. The show also connects past struggles for improved performing circumstances to present-working day intercontinental initiatives towards social justice and environmental sustainability in the textile market, according to Marcie Farwell, the Gordon and Marjorie Osborne Textile Sector Curator, who structured the show.

“You simply cannot weave this tale without the need of the weft of the landscape on which it was designed, the waterways on which it depended, and the persons and wildlife that it displaced,” Farwell wrote in the show notes. “The warp are the threads of the institution of slavery as nicely as the labor of little ones, girls, immigrants and prisoners.”

Diverse pieces of the show are dedicated to highlighting these communities and topics. They contain a display screen circumstance about incarcerated laborers, curated by Claudia León ’23, an American experiments important in A&S, as section of her RAD Community Background Fellowship job.

With artifacts and files spanning 400 yrs of historical past, the exhibit draws from several archives of Cornell University Library, which include the newly acquired American Textile Background Museum Osborne Library Selection, the Kheel Heart for Labor-Administration Documentation and Archives, and the Division of Uncommon and Manuscript Collections.

“Social Fabric” runs as a result of Sept. 1, 2023. It is element of a series of reveals arranged by Cornell College Library titled “Threads of History: Textiles at Cornell.”

Jose Beduya is a team author, editor and social media coordinator for the Cornell College Library.

Rachel Pence

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