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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Year of Cultural Design

Designers, in any medium, are influenced by the world around them.  The Goldstein museum has a long history of taking a global perspective on design, with many of our exhibitions feature objects from all over the world.  Some focus on a single culture, like in Mao to Now: Chinese Fashion from 1949 to the Present.  Others, like our current exhibit Global Technique, Local Pattern: Ikat Textiles look at a specific topic or object type as created by many different cultures.  This new exhibit showcases textiles from Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Japan, the South American Andes, and other regions, all of which use a similar dying technique to produce unique textiles.

To celebrate this heritage, in 2017 Goldstein Museum of Design will focus on a different area of the world each month.  We will explore the cultures and traditions related to specific pieces in our collection, with the goal of highlighting the importance of place, history, and tradition in design.  At the same time, we want to recognize that cross-cultural dialog and influence is more important now than ever, given technologies impact on our ever-shrinking world.

This global approach is also in the spirit of our namesakes: Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.  Born to Jewish parents who immigrated from Poland, the Goldstein sisters were first generation Americans.  Through their teaching at the University of Minnesota, the sisters inspired many students.  Their book, “Art in Everyday Life,” was used for decades in home economics classrooms across the country.1  Both their live classes2 and their book made use of artifacts from a variety of cultures.

Image illustrating bisymmetric design from Art in Everyday Life, page 88

The objects the sisters donated to the museum show their interest in international and multicultural design.  GMD is home to several examples of Native American artifacts, including these Ojibwe Moccasins and this Western Apache storage basket. 

 Right: C. 1910 Moccasins 1980.036.041a-b, Gift of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.  Left: 1900-1950 basket 0000.013.116, Gift of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.

Other items, like this batik sampler, the Goldstein sisters likely used as teaching aids.  However, the original creator may have intended it for other uses.  Purchased in 1920, most likely from Java, each block shows a different pattern with its name below it.

Above: C.1915 Batik sampler 1949.001.016.  Gift of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.  Below: Detail. 

These items from Harriet and Vetta Goldstein are only a small sampling of the many textile, costume, and decorative arts items we have in our collection.  We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we love sharing them

 Left:  C. 1875 Bohemian glass decanter from Czechoslovakia 0000.012.092.  Gift of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.  Center: Japanese printed scarf 1982.096.018.  Gift of the Estate of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein. Right: 19th century Indian Shawl (detail) 1982.096.032.  Gift of the Estate of Harriet and Vetta Goldstein.


1. Przybyszewski, Linda. The lost art of dress: the women who once made America stylish. New York: Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, 2014.
2. "History." College of Design - Goldstein Museum of Design. Accessed January 20, 2017.
3. Goldstein, Harriet I., and Vetta Goldstein. Art in everyday life. New York: Macmillan, 1929.  Accessed January 20, 2017.