Discovering Textiles in the Object Storage Vault

October 16, 2018

Huge quilts, tiny ceramics, two life-size statues of horses, and the sculpted heads of Frank Schoonover and Albert Einstein—these are a handful of the hundreds of items housed in the Museum’s object storage vault. Under the guidance of Margaretta Frederick and Chief Registrar Erin Robin, the curatorial department spent the past five years inventorying and photographing the Museum’s entire collection to make our records searchable online. Object storage was the final frontier in this major undertaking funded by grants from the Welfare Foundation, Crestlea Foundation, and The Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.

It has been exciting for the curatorial team to research and review all the works in our collection. The last stage of this project was the most challenging. We needed to rehouse all three-dimensional objects—sculptures, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and more. Collections technicians moved, catalogued, photographed, and built customized housing for hundreds of oddly-shaped objects. Curators dug into the archives and reached out to artists to gather more information on these works. One afternoon, I was surprised to see our conservation technician in the East Court assessing a huge painting produced as a mural for the Warner Theater in Wilmington. It was too large to be examined anywhere else. The painting measures roughly 20 feet long—about the height of a fully grown giraffe!

My favorite discoveries were textiles: quilts, pillows, hangings, and blankets. Because we store them rolled on tubes, I hadn’t seen many of the larger works. Some had never been photographed due to their size. Working with the textiles has been inspiring for the curators. This fall, Margaret Winslow (Curator of Contemporary Art) put a gorgeous quilt from the 1980s on view to coincide with the Juried Craft Exhibition. The tiny black-and-white photograph in our files did not do justice to the vibrant color and elaborate stitching of Françoise Barnes’ Misumena Ellipsoides.

Our entire collection is available to you with a few clicks of a button. We’ve written thousands of biographies, descriptions, and labels that will make it easy for you to find what interests you. Visit and share your exploration with us!

Heather Campbell Coyle
Curator of American Art

Misumena Ellipsoides, 1986. Françoise Barnes. Quilted cotton, cotton blend, silk, and polyester batting, 88 × 87 1/4 inches. Delaware Art Museum, F. V. du Pont Acquisition Fund, 1988. © Francoise Barnes.

This object inventory project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

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