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Throwback Thursday. Maxwell Museum Exhibitions: Weavers of the Jade Needle

Huipil (MMA 2007.74.1)

Huipil, San Tomas Chichicastenango, Guatemala. Holzapfel Collection (MMA 2007.74.1)


Maxwell History

In the nearly 50 years since the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology has been in its present location, the Museum has hosted approximately 150 temporary exhibitions. Here, we look back at some of them.

The 1976 Maxwell Museum exhibition Weavers of the Jade Needle featured more than 250 textiles from highland Guatemala from the collection of Bertha Sanford Dodge of Burlington, VT.  Mrs. Dodge approached the Museum offering to loan her textiles for an exhibition; subsequently 10 other donors, also provided objects from their collections.  One of these was Dr. Robert Holzapfel, who subsequently donated his extensive collections of Central American textiles to the Maxwell, and left a generous bequest for their care.

The exhibition was designed to look like a rural market, with 10 booths featuring clothing and textile designs from more than 50 villages, as well as mannequins dressed in regional costumes. The exhibition also featured photographs, original watercolor paintings by Pat Crocker, and weaving tools.

Many of Bertha Dodge’s textiles were acquired when she and her husband Harvard botanist Carroll William Dodge were posted in Guatemala for two years during World War II.  While there, they traveled widely, and developed a passion for the colorful and distinctive textiles, which varied by village.  An accomplished author in her own right, Bertha Dodge she earned a BS in Chemistry from Radcliffe College and was the author of the 1959 book Plants that Changed the World, and many other works.

As the exhibition was preparing to open in February 1976, a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near north of Guatemala City, killing more than 23,000 people. The exhibition continued as scheduled, though with a new dedication to the people of Guatemala and efforts to raise funds for the Guatemalan Relief fund.

Reference: Bertha Sanford Wiener Dodge (Interviewed by Anjua J Patel), Association of MIT Alumnae