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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Travels With Nellie:
A Selection from the Historical Textile and Costume Collection
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 other cultures.

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.

Contact Laura Crow at 860-486-1625 about the Historical Textile and Costume Collection or go to the Drama Department site for further information about Nellie's collection.