Silks for Thrones and Altars Chinese Costumes and Textiles book cover Re-envisioning Japan Meiji Fine Art Textiles book cover Exquisite Fabrics Traditional Weaving and Embroidery Patterns in China book cover

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[re]THINK SILK© is the theme of an international colloquium to be hosted by the Cotsen Textile Traces Study Center at The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum. It is tentatively scheduled for the spring of 2023.


The discovery that the protein polymer filaments of the Bombyx mori moth cocoon could be unwound to make threads for textile production transformed the world. Just like the compass, paper making, gunpowder or printing, sericulture is one of the great Chinese inventions that disrupted every culture it touched.

For millennia silk’s impact on commerce and dress has been a global phenomenon. The [re]THINK SILK© colloquium will address this reality with new critical thinking focused on three issues:

  • The first is concerned with Bombyx mori cultivation and the technology known as sericulture and its ultimate world-wide distribution.
  • The second focuses on the mechanics, context and content of the commercial exploitation of silk products from the late Bronze Age to the present.
  • Finally, [re]THINK SILK© will address the dynamic silk plays in elevating and distinguishing the dress of elites around the globe, and redefining what we mean by “fashion.”

[re]THINK SILK© is supported by the Rubin-Ladd Foundation of New York through the Asian Art Coordinating Council, Denver, Colorado.

For more details, contact John Vollmer.

Illustration credit: (Detail dragon’s claw) Manchu imperial woman’s supplemental weft-patterned satin jifu or celebratory robe, early 18th century, John R. Van Derlip Fund, Minneapolis Institute of Art, 41.74.2.

Meet John E. Vollmer

John is an independent scholar and the president of Vollmer Cultural Consultants Inc. specializing in strategic planning and practical program development for not-for-profit public and private sector clients in the fields of museum education, arts and culture in the United States, Canada and Asia. The company is noted for its specialized work with collections of textiles and decorative arts and for developing insightful and accessible museum exhibitions ranging from Chinese textiles to baseball, the fashion designs of Mariano Fortuny to Inuit footwear. Mr. Vollmer is also a noted author and editor.

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