In the aftermath of World War I, previously insular
Americans discovered a fascinating world of art and
culture beyond the confines of their national borders.
From the 1920's to the 1940's, a remarkable group of
American women textile specialists traveled to Europe,
Africa, and Asia in search of the historic textiles of
Nellie Gard, a professor of Home Economics at the
University of Connecticut (then Connecticut State
College), was one of those women. In 1933, with state
funding, Nellie boarded a ship for Egypt to begin
assembling a collection of traditional textiles.
Traveling during sabbaticals and vacations over a period
of several years, Nellie's trips extended to Morocco,
India, Russia, China, France, Italy and the Balkan
States. Along the way, she collected embroideries,
tapestries, damasks, copperplate prints, laces, and
hand-woven 4th through 13th century Coptic fabrics.
Nellie put her collection to practical use in her
textile courses. According to the description of the
Historic Textiles course in the 1945-46 UConn catalogue,
"antique fabrics" were used as visual aids to teach the
"design, technique and influences of the designs of one
country and period upon the textiles of other countries
and periods."This sampling of Nellie's travels forms the
core of the University's extensive Beatrice Fox Auerbach
Historical Textile and Costume Collection. There are over
3000 items in the collection, now under the auspices of
the Department of Dramatic Arts. We are fortunate that
these textile treasures have remained at UConn as an
important legacy to inspire, educate and delight both
ourselves and future generations.