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Curator’s Talk at the Bruce on Navajo Weaving Traditions, Wed., Oct. 24, 1-2:30 pm

Curator Kirsten Reinhardt with a portrait of Bruce Museum benefactor Margaret Cranford.

On Wednesday, October 24, 1-2:30 pm, Bruce Museum Registrar and Curator Kirsten Reinhardt will speak about the Museum’s collection of Navajo textiles, from their history in Native American weaving traditions to the artisanal skill of the weavers. The discussion will also cover traveler and collector Miss Margaret Cranford (1887 – 1974), whose passion for preserving these Native American items formed the foundation of the Museum’s ethnographic collection. The lecture will be followed by tea and scones.

Part of the town-wide Experience Greenwich Week, the program is free for Museum members and for visitors with paid daily admission. Visit this page on brucemuseum.org to register. For more information about Experience Greenwich Week, which includes gallery visits, in-store promotions, experiences and restaurant specials throughout the week of October 22-28, please click here.

The Curator’s Talk complements the current exhibition A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions, which traces the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest Mexican-inspired Saltillo serapes, c. 1880, to mid-20th century pictorial rugs.

Navajo rugs are unique because their warp (the vertical strings on a loom) is one, long continuous piece of wool thread. Once the warp is set on the loom, the size of the rug cannot be altered. This weaving method requires the weaver to plan the design and pattern of the rug to fit precisely into the predetermined length of the rug.

The ability to conceive and execute two-dimensional designs in extraordinary patterns and colors set Navajo weavers apart from the creators of other Native rugs and blankets. Knowledge of this traditional process is an important cultural tradition that has been maintained through intergenerational instruction and mentoring despite the obstacles of displacement, discrimination and isolation experienced by the Navajo Nation.

“The Navajo textile collection at the Bruce is extensive enough to illustrate the history of the weaving traditions and varied enough to demonstrate the artisanal skill of the weavers,” says Kirsten Reinhardt, Museum Registrar and the organizer of this exhibition. “Each piece is an extraordinary example of artistic creativity and technical execution.”

The Navajo were first recognized as the finest weavers of small horse blankets, placed under saddles to protect the horse, after the Spanish introduced both sheep and horses to the American Southwest in the mid-1500s. Influenced by Pueblo weavers, the Navajo then made large blankets which were prized throughout the Southwest and across the Great Plains for their quality as outerwear. Later, trading post economics led to a transition to rug making, a tradition that remains strong today.

Featuring a dozen items from the Museum’s Native American ethnographic collection – some of which have never been publicly exhibited – the exhibition will be on display in the Bantle Lecture Gallery through November 25, 2018.