A visit to the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum

The Mississippi Valley Textile Museum (MVTM) is located in an 1860s woollen mill in Almonte, Ontario, (west of Ottawa.) The museum preserves early machinery, local mill history, and early Canadian textile history.

Before I go any further let’s clear up the fact that the word Mississippi is derived from the Algonquin ‘Misi-ziibi’, which means ‘Great River’. While the most famous Mississippi River runs down the middle of the United States, a smaller but still great Mississippi river also runs through Ontario and is a tributary of the St. Lawrence River. The river was a source of industry for early settlers who created water-powered mills along its length in the early 19th century, especially woollen and textile mills.

As the Fashion History Museum will be redeveloping its former travelling exhibition WARdrobe: Fashion During World War II for MVTM in 2019, a trip to check out the facility was in order. WARdrobe will be installed in a gallery for temporary exhibitions on the main floor, but upstairs there is a permanent exhibition about the 19th century textile industry that is fascinating.

The permanent gallery space is huge with high-ceilings, tall windows, stone walls and wide plank floors. Dotted about the gallery are several massive Victorian era machines used for carding, combing, spinning, twisting, weaving, and finishing textiles. Although these industrial sculptures sit silent, many are still in working order and have a film showing it, or a similar machine, in action.

The weirdest artifact on display is a stuffed sheep preserved in a glass case. The Cumberland Ram was the last of an extinct breed of sheep from Cape Breton. The same ram currently on display was also on show at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo when assassin Leon Czolgosz leaned against the case to steady his aim to fire a shot at President McKinley, mortally wounding the president.

For more information about the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, visit their website: http://mvtm.ca

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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