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Cloth Cultures

Future Legacies of Dorothy K. Burnham

10 Nov - 12 Nov 2017

Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada


During Canada’s 2017 Sesquicentennial celebrations, the Royal Ontario Museum will host an international conference to explore the material culture of textiles through the work and legacies of Dorothy K. Burnham (1911-2004), internationally renowned textile scholar and member of the Order of Canada (1985). Burnham was in the vanguard of the generation of early 20th century curators who made textiles and costume a field of valid
scholarly research by finding out how and why objects are made in particular ways, what they meant when produced and what they mean to us today.

Dorothy Burnham’s pioneering work demonstrated the many layers of meaning that could be revealed through object-centred research by looking at woven, knitted, embroidered, quilted and stitched objects from Indigenous and Western cultures. Often working alongside her husband Harold B. Burnham, she devised rigorous and systematic techniques for analysis of the origins of technique and forms. Her imaginative studies clearly documented how skin and cloth distinguish and bridge cultures, continents and time. Burnham’s publications and exhibitions foreshadowed and influenced material culture studies, textiles and costume history, design and technology history as well as gender studies, anthropology, and ethnology.

This international conference will examine the contemporary trajectories that stem from Dorothy K. Burnham’s legacies by bringing together an international group of academics, artists and maker communities directly or indirectly influenced by her work. It will be of interest to those working from many scholarly disciplines and practices including anthropology, sociology, history, economics aesthetics, museology, weaving, spinning and fibre art. Together, we will explore the current diversity of interdisciplinary methods used to study the technologies, economics, meanings and cultural imbued in
25 global textiles and clothing, and in the process acknowledge and assess Burnham’s many

Keynote Speakers

• Dr. Adrienne Hood, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto, Toronto
• Dr. Ruth Phillips, Canada Research Chair, Professor, Art History, Carleton University, Ottawa
• Dr. Timo Rissanen, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability, Parsons School of Design, NYC
• Workshop Master Class
• John E. Vollmer, Vollmer Cultural Consultants Inc., NYC and Research Associate, Royal Ontario Museum