Installation shot, In the Presence of the Dragon Throne, Royal Ontario Museum

Installation shot, In the Presence of the Dragon Throne, Royal Ontario Museum, April 9-July 10, 1977. Image © Lorna N. Schueler, 1978.

In the early summer of 2018 Sarah Fee, Senior Curator, Global Fashion & Textiles (Asia and Africa) telephoned me to ask if I would be interested in organizing an exhibition focused the Royal Ontario Museum’s renown Chinese textile collection.

Without hesitation, the answer was “yes.”

I had curated the last exhibition of that collection in 1977 with In the Presence of the Dragon Throne. I thought: “what a great opportunity to correct some of the misinformation that I had once thought to be fact and to drill down on what silk, and specifically Chinese silk means within a global context of commerce and fashion.”

Draft proposals, PowerPoints, detailed pitches in writing and a personal presentation to the ROM’s Exhibition Planning Committee, in response to its procedures, followed. It took months to achieve a soft approval for an event that was tentatively slated for four years into the future. The soft approval required a detailed actual exhibition proposal. I anticipated a contract to complete the assignment.

Friends who are trustees of a small foundation that promotes Asia art committed USD 50K to the initiative. Yet, another nine months passed during which I supplied a draft letter of agreement, Sarah negotiated approval to contract a non-union member of staff, the grant moneys were received and I responded to a stream of requests outlining how I would spend the grant in accordance with Government of the Province of Ontario guidelines and I initialed discussion for agreements in principle for cooperation with China’s National Silk Museum in Hangzhou and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

There still was no contract. Stalled and with increasing skepticism about museum’s ability to implement any plan that involved a third textile exhibition on the books, I withdrew the proposal in March 2020, just as the pandemic struck.