The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington houses 1,800 costumes and textiles from the Indian subcontinent, representing 24 states in India and Pakistan. This forms an important resource for the study of the rich variety of woven, printed, dyed, and embroidered textile traditions in cotton and silk and the linguistic, ethnic, and caste relationships that define the social matrix.
The major portion of these objects came from the Elizabeth Bayley Willis collection, donated by Ms. Willis herself and Virginia and Prentice Bloedel. Ms. Willis, a curator and world traveler, made numerous trips to India from 1952 to 1964, collecting mostly contemporary textiles directly from the artisans who made them. During those years she was serving as an advisor to the Indian government on the presentation, marketing, and export of handicrafts and textiles. Willis documented pre-industrial village craft traditions, helped preserve traditional modes of textile production, and encouraged local industry. She intrepidly traveled thousands of miles under sometimes difficult conditions, visiting over 150 weaving centers, many in remote areas.
This collection is viewable digitally online by way of our online collection, but student researchers are welcome to make an appointment and view the physical collections in person. You can use the advanced search function to find all the objects from a particular geographic location by using the “Origin(s)” field. If you’d like to sign up for an account, you can save objects of interests in personal groups. There is also a mini-site devoted to the Costumes and Textiles Collection, with a specific section on India and Pakistan.
We welcome researchers to make use of this, and all the collections that comprise the Henry’s permanent collection in person by making an appointment at the Eleanor Henry Reed Collection Study Center. Please email Benjamin Levy, Assistant Curator of Collections, at firstname.lastname@example.org.