A Lifetime of Collecting Part 1: Canadian Handwoven Jacquard Coverlets from the Dennis and Sylvia Mills Collection
Dennis and the late Sylvia Mills trace their roots to long-established Ontario families. They met when both were secondary teachers and together began a life as collectors. Dennis had been a serious collector of Canadiana since his teen years, with a special fascination with handwoven textiles. Syliva’s engagement with fabric was manifested in her own collection of vintage clothing and fashion accessories. Both of these avid collectors moved beyond the mere act of acquiring objects and were committed to researching and showcasing them through conferences, seminars and special exhibitions. As Dennis says, “collecting is not about gathering (or hoarding) artifacts but unveiling the stories within and around them.”
Dennis Mills’ collection of Canadian handweaving was inspired by the work of Royal Ontario Museum curators, Dorothy and Harold Burnham, whose research on Canadian handweaving culminated in their seminal 1972 exhibit and publication of the same name, Keep me Warm One Night: Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada. Recently the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario acquired Dorothy Burnham’s papers and a group of volunteers contacted Dennis to explore the possibility of borrowing some of his artifacts for an exhibition of Canadian handweaving related to the Burnham archive. This in turn led Dennis to consider donating his comprehensive and well-documented, collection to the museum, beginning with the most spectacular examples – 19th-century jacquard coverlets. He chose these lovely textiles as the first part of his donation because they derived their patterns from a series of punched cards (in effect a primitive computer) and thus “are a significant link between the handweaving cottage trade and the mechanized industrial mills of the late nineteenth century in the Ottawa Valley.”
Curated by Dr. Adrienne Hood, a professor emeritus of History at the University of Toronto and formerly curator of Canadian Textiles at the Royal Ontario Museum. Her books include: The Weaver’s Craft: Cloth, Commerce and Industry in Early Pennsylvania and Fashioning Fabric: The Arts of Spinning and Weaving in Early Canada. This exhibit will showcase the first installment of the Dennis and Sylvia Mills collection and provide a preview of what is to come.
OPENING EVENT DATE & TIME: Saturday October 21, 2 pm to 4 pm