CSU Service 1988 to 2011
Faculty, Design and Merchandising
Linda was born in Fort Riley, Kansas. Growing up in a military family, she spent her formative years in many cities throughout the United States. Finally settling for a brief period in Philadelphia, she went to high school in the suburbs and attended Penn State where she earned her undergraduate degree in Consumer Related Studies in 1971. While at Penn State, Linda discovered her love for textiles, taking every apparel- and merchandising-related course she could fit into her schedule. After graduation, Linda moved to Colorado where she met her husband, Jon, professor emeritus of microbiology at CSU.
Linda has two children. Her son, Peter, completed his undergraduate degree at CSU and has returned for a second bachelor’s degree in January 2015. He is the father of Linda’s two grandsons. Her daughter, Hannah, attended CU before joining the Peace Corps.
What brought Linda to CSU?
In 1986, Linda decided to return to school for a M.S. in textiles and clothing. She was a stay-at-home mom who had a passion for textiles and the desire to learn something new for her own benefit. CSU was a convenient and affordable choice. However, she ultimately chose CSU because of its exceptional textile and costume collection.
Her master’s project kept her involved with the costume collection where she studied methods for utilizing material culture to teach history and to tell stories. The focus of her project was Anne Ellis, author of The Life of an Ordinary Woman, who grew up in Bonanza, Colorado. during the mid-1800’s gold rush period. Anne was a woman who made a life for herself during hard times, which inspired Linda to take excerpts from the book and pair them with appropriate period clothing to bring the history to life for students.
Linda may not have anticipated that her graduate degree would be the start of a career, but she quickly fell in love with her work and was hired right out of graduate school as the curator for the costume and textiles collection in 1988. Linda believes one of her greatest accomplishments was moving the costumes collection from the Gifford Building to the University Center for the Arts, where, through the generosity of donors, it became the Avenir Museum. The space provided more exposure for the collection to the community and scholars and was a major step in establishing its credibility as a serious museum.
The move brought new exhibits and a more prominent feature on the CSU campus. Recently, Linda has enjoyed seeing the new Avenir Museum expansion take shape. She frequently walks by the construction site with her grandsons, as her home is close to campus.
Linda’s research revolved around the collection. She spent her time making sure that every object received had a story to tell, not just from the donor, but from the context of when it was made and where it came from.
Linda taught courses related to the costumes collection, including history of costume, history of textiles, and a graduate course in museum studies. Each class emphasized how history and costume wove together. A few special courses she enjoyed teaching included one on sampler making and a number of collaborative projects with other faculty.
Teaching was a true passion for Linda because she enjoyed the enthusiasm students brought to learning, especially when they became excited about a topic that she really loved. Through the curiosity of her students, she was able to pursue things that she was passionate about, exploring those topics to a deeper level driven by their questions and excitement.
As curator, Linda was given the opportunity to travel the world to purchase textiles and to study historical costume and textiles where they were created. One of her first trips was to Scotland for seven weeks working alongside curators and conservators who handled textiles in some of the country’s largest collections. She visited the islands of Harris and Lewis to study Harris Tweed fabrication, castles and palaces where she could study ancient textiles up close, and went behind the ropes in museums where the public was not allowed. The trip was funded through a grant from the Quinque Foundation, which Linda filled out one day thinking she had nothing to lose. While she was initially dumbfounded to hear that she had received funding from such a competitive grant, she was excited to be told that her work had validity and merit, which allowed her to delve into more advanced study.
Linda also traveled with colleagues, visiting Uzbekistan twice, which is home to a rich textile history developed along the Silk Road. She spent time in Paris and the French countryside enjoying the rich history of textiles and costume. Through a Fulbright grant, written by Mary Littrell and Molly Eckman, Linda was among two dozen scholars who studied in India for a month.
On additional trips to Guatemala and Peru, Linda worked with artisans who were weaving, knitting, and dyeing textiles using an ancient technique known as Ikat. Ikat is a technique of pattern dyeing yarn before it is woven, which creates a design in a textile and takes tremendous skill. This technique has been used for thousands of years, but has lost popularity due to the intense time, skill, and knowledge needed to successfully create a finished Ikat textile.
Career and Collection Highlights
Linda notes meeting renowned fashion designer Richard Blackwell (known in the industry by his label name, “Mr. Blackwell”) and his partner, Robert Spencer, as one of her favorite CSU memories. Mr. Blackwell gained notoriety in the 1960s for his popular Hollywood worst dressed lists, but Linda was determined to share his very serious career as a talented apparel designer. Initially intimidated by the famous pair, she was surprised to find they were two lovable, highly creative men who were excited to become involved at CSU. Mr. Blackwell and Spencer taught a few classes and spent time on campus with the students. Linda helped host their campus visits by introducing them to people and working to create buzz around Mr. Blackwell’s iconic collection, part of which is held by the Avenir Museum. He was one of the first American designers to rise to fame from the west coast and was one of the first designers to design for plus-sized women, creating an exclusive collection for Lane Bryant. Linda believed that he had not received the recognition he was due and worked hard through the Avenir Museum to change that. She curated and facilitated the exhibit, “Mr. Blackwell: A Retrospective,” which included a star-studded event at the Avenir Museum in the University Center for the Arts.
When Linda was asked to give her last public lecture before retirement, she had the opportunity to pull out a couple dozen objects from the collection that she felt a special connection to. It was a difficult choice, as the Avenir Museum contains more than 20,000 objects, each with its own story to tell. Among them was a set of hand-woven bed sheets from the 18th Century. Linda appreciated the time it took to make them and the period in which they were created, as the only way to make them was by hand, shedding light on human ingenuity.
Another highlight was a collapsible top hat from the early 19th century. Linda appreciated its practicality, as a gentleman would need a place to store his hat when he visited the theater. In this case, the hat would be able to collapse to fit into the pocket in front of him.
Linda also loved a wedding dress from 1886, a popular collection piece due to its taupe color. As she would explain to curious students, the concept of wearing a white wedding dress was only beginning to reach popularity during this time period. It was Princess Victoria who wore a white dress on her wedding day in 1834, and this was an unusual fashion choice. Most brides could not afford a onetime-dress. The taupe wedding dress is beautifully intricate with laces, fringes, and bows – a gorgeous gown that was probably that bride’s best dress for the rest of her life.
What is Linda doing today?
Linda may have retired in 2011, but she still has a full schedule caring for her two grandsons. She finds joy in being able to teach them about apparel and textiles. During a recent chat with her 4-year-old grandson, he touched her shirt and exclaimed, “Grandma, that is really nice fabric. I’m smoothing the textile for you.” Hearing him use the correct terminology made her heart sing. She enjoys receiving periodic emails from former students who are reminded of her while working, studying, and traveling. Linda is eager to see the Avenir Museum renovation and expansion completed.