textile detail of beaded embroidery

Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) is a teaching collection with over 13,000 textile artifacts spanning 16 centuries and 108 countries, making it one of the nation’s largest university-held textile collections. Thousands of pieces from the collection are available for public study, loaned to outside exhibitions, and more than 9,000 objects are viewable online.

Mission of the collection

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection advances understanding of cultures and their history through engagement with textiles for the creative, technical, and educational benefit of scholars from UW–Madison and beyond.

Schedule a Tour

The majority of The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection holdings are carefully stored in a state-of-the-art storage facility adjacent to an environmentally-controlled classroom that is reserved especially for study visits. Members of the UW–Madison community and general public are all welcome to request to see objects from the collection.

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Request Your Tour

To schedule a visit or tour please complete our visit request form. Submit your request at least two weeks prior to your preferred visit date.

Once your appointment is confirmed, we will send instructions for how to search HLATC online and create a custom portfolio of the textiles you wish to see.

On-Site Guidelines

To help preserve our one-of-a-kind collection, all pieces will be viewed in a chilled and environmentally-controlled space.

  • Most textiles can be handled with clean or gloved hands under the discretion and supervision of HLATC staff
  • Photography is welcome for study purposes only, without flash
  • Beverages and food, including gum and lozenges, are not permitted
  • Pens and markers are not allowed; use pencils instead
  • Be sure not to allow hair, jewelry, or loose clothing to dangle over the objects
  • Be careful not to lean on or rest hands or notebooks on the textiles

CURRENTLY CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19.

Contact
608-262-1162
hlatc@sohe.wisc.edu

Open for Scheduled Tours:
Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Location and Parking

History of the collection

Helen Louise Allen in front of textile
Helen Louise Allen with W.F.P.0258

The nucleus of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection (HLATC) was a bequest from the estate of UW–Madison Home Economics Professor Helen Louise Allen, who taught weaving, embroidery, textile history, and the history of interiors from 1927 until her death in 1968. During her career, she traveled and amassed a broad collection of approximately 4,000 textiles to support her teaching and research.

A pioneer in her field, Professor Allen was an early adopter of historical and anthropological perspectives in the study of the textile arts. For over 50 years the collection has been a tool for students at UW–Madison, as well as national and international researchers, historians, and artists. Professor Allen’s original vision to advance understanding of cultures and their history via the textile arts still remains at the heart of HLATC’s mission and continues to inspire future generations of artists and designers.

Professor Allen is also honored on the 100 Women Wall of Honor, permanent art installation at the School of Human Ecology.

How to Donate to the Collection

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How do I make a financial gift to the collection?

Private support is critical to the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection’s continued preeminence and sustainability, now and into the future. 80% of the collection’s activities depends on external support, from annual memberships to textile adoptions and large named endowments.

Donate online

For additional giving information, contact:
Bobette Heller, Special Assistant to the Dean
608-576-7460
bfheller@wisc.edu

Claire Mezick, Director of Development
608-572-3310
claire.mezick@supportuw.org

How do I adopt a collection textile?

Our textile “adoption” program allows donors to personally connect with individual pieces while helping to sustain and preserve the entire Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection for today’s students and future generations. Adoptions are $10,000 each payable over five years but last into perpetuity.

To discover which textiles are available for adoption in our collection vault, contact:
Bobette Heller, Special Assistant to the Dean
608-576-7460
bfheller@wisc.edu

Claire Mezick, Director of Development
608-572-3310
claire.mezick@supportuw.org

How can I donate an object to the collection?

HLATC is committed to a strategic, planned, and integrated approach to building the collection to serve current and future needs. Objects are only accepted as gifts or bequests and must meet all the standards of our collections policy, which adheres to our mission and helps direct its strengths. We prioritize objects that:

  • Do not duplicate our current holdings
  • Can be safely stored in our facilities, pose no safety hazards for staff or visitors, and are in good condition for research and exhibition
  • Have verifiable record of authenticity and provenance (or history of ownership), and are legal to acquire
  • Fulfill our mission and promote curricular, research, and/or exhibition needs

If you feel your objects meet the criteria, send us the following information:

  1. A photo of the object(s)
  2. A full description, including:
    • Materials
    • Dimensions
    • Verifiable record of authenticity and provenance (history of ownership)
    • Information about any prior treatments with preservative chemicals, such as moth balls or insecticides.
    • Date of manufacture and/or collection

Email us: hlatc@sohe.wisc.edu

Or mail to:
Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
Att: Collection Manager
1300 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706


Next steps

1. Once your request is received, we may contact you for additional information required by the collections committee. Often, research into legal issues or consultation with outside curatorial experts is necessary.

2. The collections committee assesses the object and makes a recommendation to the collections staff who, acting for the collection, reaches out to the prospective donor with the committee’s decision. The committee considers acquisitions twice annually; the end of the spring and fall academic semesters.

3. If the donation is a good fit for the collection, a formal acceptance is sent and arrangements for the transfer of ownership begin. The owner signs two copies of our Deed of Gift for signature; one to be returned to us and the other for his or her records. When HLATC receives the completed Deed of Gift, shipping and transfer arrangements are made. Once an object is in our physical custody, the gift is completed.

Please note that our collections policy does not allow us to accept gifts with restrictions. Do not send or bring unsolicited objects to the collection as we not have the capacity to store objects while they are being considered by the collection committee.

For additional questions, please email us at hlatc@sohe.wisc.edu.

Thank you for your interest in growing the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.

If you have any other questions in regards to donating to HLATC, please email hlatc@sohe.wisc.edu and we’ll be happy to help you.

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection is committed to a strategic, planned, and integrated approach to building the collection to serve current and future needs. To make certain that objects in the collection provide the most value to our teaching mission, we strategically review our collecting initiatives every three to five years with the guidance of our collections committee.