In 1915 the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) embarked upon a mission to energize the American textile industry. Curators sought to innovate a distinctly “American” design idiom drawing on a more universal “primitive” language. Ethnographic objects were included in study rooms; designers gained access to storage rooms; and museum artifacts were loaned to design houses and department stores. In order to attract designers and reluctant manufacturers, who quickly responded, collections were supplemented with specimens including fur garments from Siberia, Persian costumes, and Javanese textiles. This book positions the project at the AMNH in the broader narrative of early 20th-century design education in New York, which includes the roles of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Newark Museum.

Ann Marguerite Tartsinis is associate curator at the Bard Graduate Center.
Table of Contents
Director’s Foreword


Author’s Acknowledgments
Introduction: “A New American Decorative Art”: The American Museum of Natural History and the Pursuit of a National Design Identity, 1915-1928

Part I:
World War I, Design Education, and the Museum
Models in the Study Room—1916

Part II:
Fashion Designers and Global Artifacts
Garments from the Exhibition of Industrial Art—1919

Part III:
The Exhibition of Industrial Art in Textiles and Costumes, 1919

Part IV:
Abandoned Plans and Shifting Priorities


Selected Biographies

Checklist of the Exhibition

Exhibitors at the Exhibition of Industrial Art