The Calico Museum of Textiles
A specialist museum of Indian textile and handicrafts, the Calico Museum of Textiles was established by Gira Sarabhai and Gautam Sarabhai in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with the aim of studying the handicrafts and industrial textiles of India. The museum was inaugurated in 1949 by then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and is part of the Sarabhai Foundation galleries.
The idea for the institution was conceived by Gautum Sarabhai and AK Coomaraswamy, who suggested that a textile museum be established in Ahmedabad, which had been a major textile trading and production centre since the fifteenth century. The museum was initially part of the Calico Mills complex owned by the Sarabhai family. In 1983, following dwindling funds from Calico Mills, the museum premises were shifted to its present location at the Sarabhai Foundation in Shahibaug.
The initial collection comprised textile samples acquired by Gira Sarabhai. The current collection is divided across two wings — the Haveli and the Chauk. The Haveli wing houses religious textiles; bronze sculptures; Jain art; miniature paintings; and machines, processes and tools of textile techniques and embroidery patterns. The Chauk wing displays royal tents, carpets and furnishings; decorative material art; Mughal and other courtly costumes; regional embroideries; tie-dye fabrics; and export textiles. The museum also houses textile samples from across the country, including kalamkari block prints from the eighteenth century; paithani weaves from Maharashtra; double ikat cloth and applique work from Orissa; Kashmiri shawls; Madhubani from Mithila; kantha stitch samples from West Bengal; bandhani from Rajasthan; and chamba print cloth from Himachal Pradesh. The collection also includes trade textiles dating to the seventeenth century made for the Portuguese, Dutch and English markets.
By the early 1950s, the focus of the museum had shifted from industrial fabrics to the preservation and expansion of its collection of handicraft and handloom textiles. In the 1960s, it established a publication program, and has since published books such as Historical Textiles of India (1955), Indian Embroideries by Anne Morrell (2013) and Wondrous Images by BN Goswamy (2014).
As of writing, the museum has over 3,900 pieces and is managed by a board of directors under the Sarabhai Foundation galleries. Gira Sarabhai served as the chairperson of the museum till 2012. The Gujarat government also declared the museum a national heritage under the Gujarat Ancient Monuments and Architectural Sites and Remains Act, 1965.
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