Historic Textile and Costume Collection and Gallery

URI Historic Textile and Costume Collection

Online Collection

Now available online, the Historic Textile and Costume Collection supports teaching in the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, as well as other departments on campus. Browse hundreds of objects in the collections and watch for updates as new objects are added.    

View the online collection

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Current Exhibit

The Textile Gallery is now open in Quinn Hall, first floor. The exhibit, “What’s In A [Designer] Name? – An Investigation of Twentieth-Century Fashion Labels” , will be open through December 2022. The exhibit was both curated and installed by graduate students in the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising & Design. Additional information about the exhibit can be found on the Historic Textile & Costume Collection web site uritextilecollection.omeka.net.

Previous Exhibits


  • The Kaleidoscope of Textiles: Dress as Multidimensional Cultural Documents
  • “One American Family: A Tale of North and South”
  • Feminism and Fashion of the Twentieth Century
  • Celebrating 125 Years at the University of Rhode Island: Featuring Fashions Typical of Campus Wear from the Historic Textiles and Costume Collection
  • The Rise of the Readymade Apparel Industry
  • The Other White Dress
  • From Kitchen to Kitsch: Aprons from the Seventeenth Century to the Present
  • China: the Power of Design
  • From Exotica into Americana
  • What We Wore: Clothing from 1976-79
  • Lace: the Elegant Fabric
  • At the Crossing: Midwestern Amish Crib Quilts and the Intersection of Cultures
  • American Woven “Coverlids”: Coverlets from the Historic Textile and Costume Collection
  • “History in Stitches”: Six Centuries of Embroidery
  • Nature’s Dyes: Textiles From Around the Globe
  • Purple: Celebrating 150 Years of Synthetic Dyes
  • “These are a few of my favorite things”: Faculty and Staff Choices

About the Collection

Historic Textile and Costume Collection

The URI Historic Textile and Costume Collection, located in Quinn Hall, contains approximately 20,000 objects. The mission of the Collection is threefold:

  • Teaching textile, fashion design, historic costume, and historic textiles classes in the TMD department as well as other departments on campus
  • Research by students, faculty, and visiting scholars
  • Exhibition in the Textile Gallery and loans for exhibitions in other museums

Objects in the Collection include both costumes and textiles from all over the world. Besides a few pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles and early Egyptian cloths, the earliest holdings date to the late eighteenth century. Several collections of handwoven textiles and clothing from Rhode Island families date from this period. Early everyday wear is one of the strengths of the Collection.

Nineteenth-century clothing and accessories for American women, men, and children are well represented in the Collection. The Accessions Committee is judiciously adding twentieth-century objects, particularly designer garments. The ethnographic textiles and costumes come from many cultures that have a strong textile heritage. Recent additions to the Latin American and African collections have begun an effort to increase the holdings from those areas.

Researchers, quilters, private collectors, and others interested in historic costumes and textiles are encouraged to use the Collection. Appointments can be arranged by calling the Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design office at 401-874-4574.

The special collections department of URI’s Library houses the related Commercial Pattern Archive of more than 40,000 paper patterns from the mid 19th century to the present time, and 50,000 images.

Textile Gallery

The Gallery was opened in 1999 after several years of fundraising and renovation of the space. It serves as a showcase for items from the Department’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection.

Developing the exhibits (currently 1-2 per year) is an invaluable experience for the Department’s graduate students as they work towards careers in museums, historical societies, and conservation labs.