Museum L-A adds significant pieces to bed cover exhibit

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LEWISTON — Interest in the Museum L-A’s highly successful exhibit “Covering the Nation –  the Art of the Bedspread Exhibit” has been brisk, according to museum Executive Director Rachel Desgrosseilliers. The Costume Society of America is having its conference in Portland and requested the present exhibit be extended to May 31. More than 30 people from all over the country have already signed up.

As part of extending the exhibit, Museum L-A has acquired several new and interesting artifacts that will be a big addition to its collection, Desgrosseillier said. 

 One is a pale green “Woolly Lamb” design of a child’s woven bed cover. Not just another bed cover.  but one  owned by the daughter of the a former Bates Manufacturing president. 

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While visiting the museum, Martica Sawin of New York was amazed to find the story of her father, Herman Ruhm, included in the exhibit. Ruhm was the President of Bates Manufacturing in the 1940s. Woolly Lamb” was brought home for her when she was a child, and all her children as well as grandchildren have slept under the comfort of this child’s bedcover. When Sawin returned to the museum with her daughters, they showed heavy hearts in leaving “Woolly Lamb,” but all agreed this is where it belonged.

 Another addition to the exhibit is a well-worn peach-colored “Farm Landscape” bedspread donated by Patricia Morton of Lewiston, along with a photograph of her as a child playing on the bed cover in the 1950s.

 The “Travelogue,” a Bates 1936 salesman’s folding catalogue featuring designs inspired by “research in the four corners of the world” for color and design is a major addition. In it Bates proudly presents 23 of its newest creations reflecting the genius of Bates and truly characterizes the finest work of its time. A black-and-white floral double-weave novelty textured yarn design bedspread is on loan from a donor in Maryland. The museum is hoping to acquire it since it is unique to its collection.

 The exhibit goes beyond the machine process of creating a bedspread. “While the city of Lewiston’s legendary generations of dedicated and skilled spinners and weavers brought Bates bedspreads into being, another group, with different skills and abilities, worked in the mill to create the designs —  a repertoire ranging from traditional to fashionable,” Jacqueline Field, a textile historian and guest curator said.

From their work, as represented in the exhibit, it is apparent that the Bates designers were well versed in contemporary and historic design precedents, and understood the limitations imposed by the respective production processes, some of which were extremely complex.

 Museum L-A is located in the Bates Mill Complex at 35 Canal Street in Lewiston, Maine and is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the first Saturday of every month 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and by appointment.

 For tours or information, contact Robert at: rcaron@museumla.org or call 207-333-3881. 

This 1936 “Travelogue” (a catalogue for a traveling salesman) was donated to Museum L-A’s extended dddd exhibit. 

This child’s “Woolly Sheep” pattern bedspread manufactured by Bates Mill was donated to Museum L-A by Martica Sawin of New York, whose father, Herman Ruhm, was president of Bates Manufacturing in the 1940s. All Sawin’s children and grandchildren have slept under the bed cover.

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