Exploring Costume and Textiles at the Henry Art Gallery

Costumes Day dress (woman’s)
Textiles Pichhavai (temple cloth)
Connections Robe, formal / domestic (woman’s)


The Henry Art Gallery’s Costume and Textile Collection provides a resource for studying the construction and design of fiber-based objects, their relationship to other art forms, and their historical and cultural role in the societies that produced them. The collection illustrates the wide range of aesthetic and technical skills employed over several millennia by often anonymous master artisans, and it documents how technology and mechanization have influenced one of humankind’s most basic activities. This electronic gallery guide provides concepts for understanding costume and textiles and serves as a point of entry to explore this remarkable collection.

In the 1930s, both the School of Drama and the School of Home Economics at the University of Washington began collecting costume and textiles. In 1958, the latter founded the Costume and Textile Study Center as a home for its collection, gradually developing the indexed retrieval system and the model textile storage system for which this collection is well known. The two collections merged and were transferred to the Henry Art Gallery in 1982. As of May 2009 it includes over 18,000 pieces. Objects in the collection range in date from 1500 BCE to the present. In particular, the collection affords historic overviews of early Coptic and pre-Columbian textiles; rugs; European fabrics; lace; and fashion from the late 18th century to the present. The holdings include significant sub-collections from India, China, Japan, Central Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Central America.

The Henry’s DIG initiative gives researchers and the general public on-demand access to the collection. The project’s digital tools and images help enlighten and inform users about costume and textile traditions. The selections found in this Digital Gallery offer a small glimpse of the entire collection. Users may visit the Collection Search page on this Website to fully explore this valuable resource.

The costume and textile gallery guide was conceptualized and written by Diana Ryesky, PhD. and Judy Sourakli, Curator of Collections, for the Henry Art Gallery. The Google Earth component of this project was conceived by Robert Nicholl and designed by Robert Nicholl and Andrew O’Connor.