The URI Historic Textile and Costume Collection, located in Quinn Hall, is one of the largest collections at an American university, containing over 25,000 objects. Included are garments and accessories, home-furnishing textiles, samplers, quilts, lace, and other textiles from around the world as well as tools used in textile manufacturing and printed materials. Besides pre-Columbian Peruvian textiles and ancient Egyptian cloths, the earliest holdings date to the late eighteenth century.

Several collections of handwoven textiles and clothing from Rhode Island families date from the late 1700s and are a strength of the collection. Nineteenth-century clothing and accessories for American women, men, and children are well represented. Ethnographic textiles and costumes come from cultures that have a strong textile heritage. 


The Historic Textile and Costume Collection at the University of Rhode Island was founded in 1943 to support bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Systematic accessioning began in 1952 under the direction of Mary C. Whitlock, appointed professor and head of the Department of Textiles and Clothing in the College of Home Economics in 1951. Her foresight in collecting, and recording detailed information and genealogies to accompany donations is invaluable to researchers. An inventory and catalog exist for objects accessioned from 1952 to the present. In 1989, Dr. Margaret Ordoñez joined URI as Director of the Collection. Under her supervision, conversion to a museum numbering system commenced at the same time as computerization of the catalog began. Also at that time, items were consolidated from nine separate storage locations into a suite of adjacent rooms. A Champlin grant provided funding for museum quality storage units.

Faculty and students use the Collection almost daily. The university offers classes in clothing history in which garments from the Collection are used as examples. Students explore the manufacture and use of clothing from around the world in classes focused on the cultural aspects of dress. Most of the research papers presented on this web site are from students. Garments are frequently used in design classes as examples of a particular technique, to inspire, and for students to sketch. 


The Textile Gallery is located on the first floor of Quinn Hall, serving as a showcase for artifacts from the Department’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection. Opening in 1999 after a period of fundraising, the gallery hosts one or two exhibitions mounted annually. Developing exhibitions is an invaluable experience for the Department’s graduate students as they work towards careers in museums, historical societies, and conservation labs. The Gallery is open weekdays from 8:30 to 4:30 during the academic year. Call to confirm at other times (401-874-4574).


To arrange tours, individual appointments, special programs, lectures, or permission to use images contact:

Director, Linda Welters, lwelters@uri.edu, 401-874-4525

Collections Manager, Susan J. Jerome, sjjerome@uri.edu, 401-874-2299

Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design Office, Jennifer Diano, jennifer_diano@uri.edu 401-874-4574