Collection Overview


The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection advances understanding of cultures and their history through engagement with textiles for the creative, technical, and educational benefit of scholars from the University and beyond.

It is a teaching collection, with over 13,000 textile artifacts spanning 16 centuries and 108 countries. The nucleus of the Collection was a bequest from the estate of UW-Madison Home Economics Professor Helen Louise Allen, who taught weaving, textile history, and the history of interiors from 1927 until her death in 1968. During her career, she traveled and amassed a broad collection of approximately 4,000 textiles to support her teaching and research.

A pioneer in her field, Professor Allen was an early adopter of historical and anthropological perspectives in the study of the textile arts. Her original vision to advance understanding of cultures and their history via the textile arts still remains at the heart of HLATC’s mission and continues to inspire future generations of artists and designers.

Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection Staff

Carolyn JenkinsonCarolyn H. Jenkinson
Curator of Collections, Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection
1235H Nancy Nicholas Hall


Your Support is Important

The Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection is grateful to have the support of collectors, artists, alumni, scholars, and textile enthusiasts. Private support is critical to the Collection’s continued preeminence and sustainability now and in the future. From the individual yearly gifts by Friends of HLATC to named endowments, 80% of the Collection’s activities depends on external support.

Become a Friend

Become a Friend of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection! When you join by making a yearly gift, you’ll show your support for one of the country’s leading textile collections and receive HLATC’s annual newsletter, bi-monthly e-newsletters, plus personal invitations to workshops, special events, lectures, and exhibitions. A gift of $75 or more will establish you as a Friend, or continue your membership, for a calendar year.
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In addition to your annual gift as a Friend of HLATC, you can make a lasting impact with a contribution to the HLATC Adopt-A-Textile Endowment Fund. With a gift of $10,000 payable over five years, you can make a symbolic adoption of a textile of your choosing. When you adopt a textile, your name will be forever linked to that object and you’ll have the satisfaction of making a gift to benefit HLATC in perpetuity. You can also participate in the Adopt-a-Textile Endowment at another level. For more information about these opportunities, contact Bobette Heller (608-576-7460 | or Claire Mezick (608-572-3310 |

Donations of Textiles

From the beginning of 2019 and through the year-long 50th Anniversary celebration, donations to the collection are on hold and not being accepted.

HLATC is committed to a strategic, planned, and integrated approach to building the Collection to serve current and future needs. To make certain that objects in the Collection provide the most value to our teaching mission, we strategically review our collecting initiatives every three to five years with the guidance of our Collections Committee.

In 2020, HLATC will be interested in the following types of textiles:

  • 18th century chintz or wholecloth
  • Art quilts with local community significance or value
  • Utilitarian quilt in the style of Gee’s Bend
  • Quilts by minority groups (e.g., Native Americans)
  • Latin American, North African, and Near Eastern rugs
  • Native American textiles, especially bead and quill work
  • Major works of fiber art by Sheila Hicks, Kaffe Fassett, and others
  • 15th-17th century velvets and brocades
  • 1920s beaded dresses
  • Tailored men’s and women’s suits, 1930-1959
  • Mariano Fortuny gowns
  • Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress
  • Emilio Pucci, Zandra Rhodes, or Lilly Pulitzer print dresses
  • Historic Western undergarments
  • Furnishing or apparel fabrics from the 1990s to the present
  • Islamic textiles from Africa

Should your interest in donating an object fall outside of these categories, we unfortunately are not able to accept your gift at this time. Other institutions you may wish to contact about your gift include:
Wisconsin Historical Society: Objects made, used, and/or worn in Wisconsin
Madison Children’s Museum: Textiles related to children, especially historic clothing
Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts: Quilts and fiber arts