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August 17, 2007

New exhibition at Wallace Museum explores samplers--extraordinary art in fabric and thread

Museum guests of Colonial Williamsburg have the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of samplers – decorative pieces of needlework created by young girls of school age. Opening Sept. 15, “American Schoolgirl Needlework: Records of Virtue” offers an exhibition of colorful patterns and designs, often inspired by allegorical figures, classical heroes and Biblical stories.

Unlike today’s sampler box of chocolates, samplers of the 18th and early 19th centuries were important elements of a young girl’s childhood and her education. “Samplers and similar pictorial needlework reflected attitudes, expectations and changes within society,” said Kimberly Smith Ivey, Colonial Williamsburg’s associate curator of textiles and needlework. “Most importantly, they illuminate the lives of young women who are often overlooked in written history.”

The young ladies learned alphabets and numbers – even geography – as they used needle and thread to create fabric records of family genealogy, pious teachings, commemorations of important events and celebrations of the virtues of the young United States.

Mindful of the schools devoted to the education of girls, the exhibition focuses on more than just stitches. Museum guests learn about the girls who created the fabric works of art and the teachers and academies responsible for them.

“American Schoolgirl Needlework: Records of Virtue” will be on view in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. Exhibiting objects from one of the nation’s finest collections of late 17th century to early 19th century decorative arts, the DeWitt Wallace Museum shares its location in the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg with the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

The Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are open to ticketed guests 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily. Admission is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, a separate Museums admission ticket or Annual Museums Pass, or Good Neighbor Pass. Entered through the Public Hospital of 1773, the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at 325 W. Francis St. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281