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Marcie Farwell, the inaugural Gordon and Marjorie Osborne Textile Industry Curator at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation, is pictured at work in the collection.

New curator gives historic textile collection a fresh start

When the American Textile History Museum closed in 2017, its library holdings came to the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation, the unit of Catherwood Library that houses special collections pertaining to the history of the workplace and labor relations.

The Gordon and Marjorie Osborne Foundation, a long-time supporter of the museum, endowed the curator position to ensure the collection continues receiving dedicated attention. For Marcie Farwell, the inaugural Gordon and Marjorie Osborne Textile Industry Curator, it’s a job that seems perfect for her.

“It doesn’t even feel like a choice,” she says. “It feels like fate.”

Farwell started sewing her own clothing in high school and, after college, landed a job with a boutique wedding dress designer. Much of the work was hand sewing, but Farwell vividly recalls accompanying the designer to fabric and trim shops to browse sample books and select fabrics.

The sample books in the museum collection are just as exciting to her, she said. “They are massive but recognizable books relating the story of what’s been happening in textiles for a long, long time,” she said.

Now in her fourth month at the Kheel Center, Farwell is focused on processing and describing items, an imperative since researchers have already been inquiring about the collection. It includes approximately 90,000 books, periodicals, manuscript collections, photographs, textile sample books, tintypes, glass plate negatives and trade catalogs that tell the story of the American textile industry.

Visit the ILR School website for a full version of this story.

– Jessica E. Withers

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli