Between 1927 and 1933, museum founder Anna Rice Cooke donated to the museum 369 works that formed the core of the museum’s textile collection. Her wide-ranging tastes are apparent in a collection that includes an opulent 19th-century Noh robe, an exquisite Chinese Qing court robe, a 1751 gold-embroidered European chasuble, and a rare Hawaiian quilt illustrating Eden. Through gifts and purchases, the textile collection now has close to 6,000 works from more than 60 countries. The works reveal major trends in weaving, embroidery, surface ornamentation, and lace-making from many of the world’s primary textile production centers.
A significant portion of the collection includes the Christensen Fund Collection, one of the most comprehensive holdings of Indonesian textiles in the United States. Also included in this collection are 100 Bhutanese, 350 Chinese, 35 Indian, 30 Cambodian, 100 Japanese, and 20 Thai textiles.
Japanese textiles include late Edo-period kosode robes, 19th-century bridal outer robes, Taishō/early Showa wedding or ceremonial kimonos, colorful Taishō-style casual kimonos, and a small collection of Noh robes and accessories such as spectacular kariginu robes, choken dancing robes, karaori kimono, sobatsugi outer jackets, trousers, and inner garments. In addition the collection includes cotton indigo-dyed folk garments worn by farmers and townsmen, such as festive garments for fishermen, firemen, gardeners and other professions and tsutsugaki (rice paste, resist-dyed) textiles includes primarily bed covers, curtains, and wrapping cloths with large motifs drawn against an indigo background. The collection is regarded as one of the finest outside of Japan.
The core of the museum’s Chinese textile collection consists of approximately 150 garments from the Qing period of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, many of them official Manchu court robes and women’s ceremonial jackets and skirts. Most of the court robes are so-called “dragon robes,” decorated with imperial dragons and Manchu celestial designs, including several rare examples—a 19th-century emperor’s qi fu, an empress’s chao fu, a high-ranking official’s chao fu, and prince’s pu fu, all in excellent condition.
The Pacific-Oceania area is strongly represented with 150 tapa and kapa pieces, as well as 30 Hawaiian quilts that are among the best in the country. The Western area is represented by 250 European textiles, 200 lace pieces, and 150 North American textiles including American quilts, coverlets, and American Indian blankets and bead works. The tribal and ethnic holdings include 160 Turkish/Middle Eastern, 200 Central and South American, and 120 African costumes and textiles.