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Photograph of Annemro Sundbø, winner of the Sørlandets litteraturpris for 2020.Photograph of Annemro Sundbø, winner of the Sørlandets litteraturpris for 2020.It is lovely to have some good news in these strange times. We have recently heard that Annemor Sundbø, a frequent and popular visitor and lecturer at the TRC, has just won a major Norwegian literary prize for her book Koftearven: Historiske trader og magiske mønster (‘Cardigans: Historical trades and magical patterns’). More specifically: the prize is the Sørlandets litteraturpris for 2020. A video of the event can be seen here.

It is a beautifully illustrated book, which looks at many cardigans that come from various parts of Norway. We reviewed the book in the NewTextileBooks review series of the TRC. There are discussions about technical, historical and design aspects. The design section is the ‘magical’ element.

This year, the TRC in Leiden is exhibiting a large number of American quilts. The TRC does so through the current American Quilts exhibition, and from September as part of an exhibition about textiles, dress and World War II. This display will include a number of relief-quilts made by the Mennonite community in the USA and Canada during the war to be sent to Europe to provide warmth and protection to the refugees in war-torn Europe. 

The Bible Quilt, completed by Harriet Powers in 1886.The Bible Quilt, completed by Harriet Powers in 1886.

Dress with long train from the island of Socotra (TRC 2017.0242). The dress is more than two metres long; the front reaches to the knees. The back of the dress includes the long train. Dress with long train from the island of Socotra (TRC 2017.0242). The dress is more than two metres long; the front reaches to the knees. The back of the dress includes the long train. Socotra is a small island in the Gulf of Aden, between the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. You may never have heard about it, but this weekend it reached the world’s headlines because of an attempt by some of the local people to make themselves independent of nearby Yemen. Mainland Yemen has been devastated by a civil war that still continues, so the attempt to cut links with Yemen are understandable.

I won’t go into the political details, but what struck me was the information that journalists must desparately have been collecting about this place, in order to provide some couleur locale. They could have written something about its human history, which goes back for thousands of years. The island features already in a two thousand year old sea manual for the trade between Roman Egypt and India. But what the media came up with was that the island was famous for a particular tree, the Dragon’s Blood tree, and for the Socotra cormorant, which is a type of sea-bird.

Now trees and birds are enormously important, but my well-informed spouse also knew about the island, not because of its ancient history or a type of sea-bird, but because of a particular type of dress worn by the local women. It has a very long train that is, so we assume, wrapped around the body, forming some sort of second covering. In all, the dress is more than two metres long, and decorated with embroidery and/or silver-coloured bands on the front and back.

The Textile Research Centre in Leiden has two examples of this unique form of garment, both dating to the late twentieth or early twenty-first centuries (TRC 2015.0551 and TRC 2017.0242).

The cover page of the latest issue of The Journal of Dress History shows a detail of an early nineteenth century lace veil, which is now housed in the collection of the TRC in Leiden (TRC 2014.0381). The veil once belonged to Queen Anna Paulowna (1795-1865), a daughter of the Russian czar Paul I. She was the wife of the Dutch king, Willem II. The photograph was taken by Joost Kolkman, one of the TRC webmasters and a professional photographer.

Summer 2020 CoverSummer 2020 Cover

T-shirt referring to the legendary eye-sight test of the British official, Dominic Cummings, to Barnard Castle (TRC 2020.3015).T-shirt referring to the legendary eye-sight test of the British official, Dominic Cummings, to Barnard Castle (TRC 2020.3015).The TRC has now been officially open for two weeks and things are (slowly) beginning to get back to normal. Visitors are coming in – usually by appointment, but very occasionally simply drawn in by the wonderful and colourful quilts that are on display in the Gallery.

Throughout our premises there are bottles of soaps and hand cleaners. There are face masks available should people wish to use them. These are important because guided tours, courses and workshops have started again. We have to get used to the smaller numbers of participants, but it makes it more personal and more time can be spent on the many questions and comments. Because of these limited numbers we are repeating various workshops on different days and many events are already full. So if you are interested in attending something (see the programme), please email and register as soon as possible (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

If allowing a woman to cover her face in public is a matter for discussion and, at times, heated debate, then the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the discussion of face coverings to an entirely new level. Depending on your perspective, the COVID face mask is political, fashionable, essential -- and is being produced in quantities like never before.

A group of people standing outdoors wearing masks over their mouths. This was probably during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. One of the women has a sign in front of her reading 'Wear a mask or go to jail." Courtesy Digital Public Library America.A group of people standing outdoors wearing masks over their mouths. This was probably during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. One of the women has a sign in front of her reading 'Wear a mask or go to jail." Courtesy Digital Public Library America.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, individuals, corporations, and governments faced similar challenges to those confronted today. American cities that passed masking ordinances in the autumn of 1918 struggled to enforce them among the small portion of people who rebelled. Some even poked holes in their masks in order to smoke. Common punishments were fines, prison sentences, and having your name printed in the newspaper.

Queen Victoria's wedding dress, RCIN 71975.Queen Victoria's wedding dress, RCIN 71975.A recent TRC blog on a wedding dress (3 May 2020) made me look closer at the fascinating history of wedding clothes. Wedding dresses are seen as very traditional garments, but they can also reflect surprisingly contemporary history and social issues.

Two of the wedding dresses in the TRC collection, one Dutch (TRC 2019.2154), the other American (TRC 2020.2126), reflect both the scarcity of materials and the make-do attitudes of the Second World War.

A burgundy coloured bow tie (TRC 2019.1614) in the TRC’s LGBTQ+ collection, which I wore at my own wedding, reflects a groundbreaking December 2000 law that made the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.

The Second World War ended 75 years ago and there were going to be various large and small celebrations that would reflect this event throughout Europe. However, due to the cornona virus pandemic many of these events had to be postponed or even cancelled. Not surprisingly, the planned TRC’s exhibition on textiles and WWII was also postponed. Yet, ironically, this has given us more time to expand it!  It also means that the exhibition, which will now open on 16th September, has a much larger and relevant story that links up with the present-day crisis (although of course the war was incomparable in scale and suffering). How do people cope during a period of uncertainty?

A painted brooch made of wood, with a personal memento of the German attack on The Netherlands in May 1940. 'Ter herinnering aan hen die vielen. 10-15 mei 1940' (TRC 2019.2292).A painted brooch made of wood, with a personal memento of the German attack on The Netherlands in May 1940. 'Ter herinnering aan hen die vielen. 10-15 mei 1940' (TRC 2019.2292).

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Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  
info@trc-leiden.nl

The TRC is open again from Tuesday, 2nd June, but by appointment only.

Bank account number:
NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59,
Stichting Textile Research Centre

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 2020: American Quilts

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Donations

The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
 
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
 
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: