On November 4, 2015, the American Textile History Museum in Lowell announced that it will close its doors on December 31, 2015 to undergo a “significant transformation.” The announcement, which came in the form of a press release, was posted on the museum’s website. Citing a significant deficit that has been depleting the museum’s shrinking reserves as well as on-going financial problems for almost 20 years, the ATHM is also citing low attendance and high operating costs.
The museum is no stranger to closing its doors and restructuring. In 2005, it permanently closed the Textile Conservation Center and sold part of its Dutton Street building where it is currently located for conversion into mixed-use space. Following a successful fundraising campaign, the museum reopened to the public in 2009.
The Smithsonian Institution affiliate boasts of one of the finest collections of textiles, clothes, tools and machinery as well as books and ephemera in North America. The ATHM has hosted a number of critically acclaimed traveling exhibitions which included Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol and High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture among others. It has also organized some very outstanding exhibits such as Grace and Glamour: 1930s Fashion and Color Revolution: Style Meets Science in the 1960s drawing exclusively from their own renowned collection.
The museum, which is very difficult to get to using public transportation has vowed to keep its research center available on a limited basis. It is unclear when the American Textile History Museum will open its doors once again or exactly how large is the current budget deficit, but with this announcement also comes a new fundraising campaign that will, according to the press release, “help preserve and protect the Museum’s unparalleled collection of American artifacts, as well as enable ATHM to effectively transform and continue to fulfill our mission for generations to come.”
I’ve obviously been a fan of the American Textile History Museum—I’ve written about their exhibits numerous times and have been a cheerleader for them on social media, but as an outsider I sensed their financial struggles which were reflected on their lack of social media presence, outreach and marketing. I wish the museum the best and hope they can come out of this a much leaner and stronger organization. I’ll look forward to visiting the museum before it closes its doors on December 31, 2015.
Featured Image: Evening Gown, Label: Christian Dior, Gianfranco Ferré for Christian Dior, Autumn-Winter 1989-1990, Silk Crepe, Silk Organza. Gift of Mrs. Alfred Bloomingdale. FIDM Museum Collection. 2006.116.113 Detail. From the exhibition High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture.