by Katie Zinman
If I have learned one thing as a student intern at the Nasher Museum it is that time passes, but the legacies left behind are timeless. Since I began my internship in early September, my supervisor, Assistant Registrar Kelly Woolbright, and I have been working to complete a full inventory of all the textiles in the museum’s permanent collection, most of which date back to the Pre-Columbian Era. Following a seamlessly established routine, we move from drawer to drawer, removing the individual works from each one. Like a true grab bag, you never know what you’ll come across. Textiles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fragments so small they are hard to see with the naked eye, other pieces are so heavy they require two or three people to remove them from their shelf.
Time-traveling, textile sleuths over the course of the semester, Kelly and I came across a wide variety of objects; yet, it was a small Ancient Native American shoe — a moccasin — that really caught my eye. From the moment I unwrapped it’s delicate, tissue paper shell, I was instantly drawn to this simple piece of footwear. As I recorded its measurements, it was almost as if I was bridging a two thousand year gap. Vividly imagining the life of the young man or woman who once wore these shoes, I caught myself in a daydream. I pondered over questions I’d never know the answers to: Where had this young man or woman been? How did he or she craft these moccasins? Why were they even necessary? Sadly, I’d never know.
Right then, I realized that I was a part of something much bigger than I was, much bigger than I had imagined. Like the owner of that shoe, I was too was one of the countless stories that together make up human history, and despite the countless differences between our lives, underneath it all, the wearer of that shoe and I are connected. So, if I can offer you one piece of advice that I have learned while sifting through centuries of textile fragments, tapestries, looms, and ponchos, it is this: never forget to look back to the past; there are people who have come before us, and we can learn from them, because after it all, our human condition spans the test of time.
Photo by J Caldwell