Monday, April 11, 2011

Textile Museum! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Last week was not good for either writing or blogging. However, on Saturday I made a trip to a sweet little museum to do some research. The place was far better than I expected it to be.

The work in progress has a historical element dealing with a young Polish employee of a thread mill. The Windham Textile & History Museum "preserves and interprets the history of textiles, textile arts and the textile industry," specifically the history related to the American Thread Company's mills in Willimantic, Connecticut. (It had other locations in New England.) The Windham Textile Museum is currently running an exhibit, "Polish Past in Willimantic & Windham," so I've been biding my time and finally managed to shoehorn a trip to the museum into this past weekend's family events.

I prefer social history to other types, so I was very happy with the first floor exhibit of Polish memorobilia. But what is so incredibly neat about this museum is that it is three stories, and as you go up you keep being exposed to new surprises. (Well, I was, anyway. Readers of this blog won't be surprised because I'm telling them about it now.) The second floor, for instance, is called Thread Mill Square, and it is an Epcotish (we love Epcot) spot where you can visit replicas of two very different kinds of homes. The door to the Manager's House happened to be closed while we were there. When I opened it, I was quite stunned by what I saw. I just wasn't expecting so complete a room.

But what really amazed me was the third floor library. What was so marvelous about it was that we walked up another flight of stairs with no idea what we were going to find, and there was not just the library but people working at tables. It's sort of an archive where people actually do things. We happened to stumble upon two student interns who were cataloging site and architectual plans that had been made while the Willi mill was in operation. One of the family's engineers was with me. He nearly wept.

Though I clearly hadn't paid much attention to the images at the Museum's website before going there, I had been studying the historical material. Lots of good stuff there for all you people who like labor history.

The museum is about twenty minutes from the University of Connecticut and in the same town as Eastern Connecticut State University. So if you're doing college visits, it's worth a stop. Or if you're going to UConn in the fall for the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, you can hit the Textile Museum, too.

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