Museum Archivist to discuss new museum
Michele Nielsen, San Bernardino County Museum history division
archivist, will discuss a new museum exhibit on blue and white
embroideries from China during a gallery talk on September 11
at 1:00 p.m. The talk is open to the public and is free with museum
"Signs in the Designs: Blue and White Embroideries from
China" is a new temporary exhibit in the museum's textile
series. The exhibit opens in the museum's Hall of History on September
4 and continues through February 13, 2005.
The museum's Western Textile Center is home to an astounding
variety of fiber arts collections. "Signs in the Designs"
explores a group of unusual blue and white embroideries collected
in the Chengdu region of central China in the early twentieth
century by Virginia Moncrieff.
Moncrieff and her husband traveled from the United States to
China for the first time in 1915. Her husband, previously assigned
to a post in Japan as a missionary, assumed a position as a school
administrator at West China Union University, a religious organization
in the Szechwan Province town of Chengdu. The Moncrieffs eventually
lived in this region off and on for the next thirty-five years
as educators on behalf of the American Foreign Baptist Mission
"This collection reminds us that institutions like Loma
Linda University Adventist Health Science Center and even certain
retirement enclaves, like Plymouth Village in Redlands, represent
a unique and interesting world-wide connection with our county,"
said Nielsen. "Redlands, Loma Linda, Claremont, and other
Southern California communities have been retirement destinations
for a wide variety of citizens who traveled throughout the world
as missionaries and educators. They form a fascinating part of
the county's demographics, both past and present."
Virginia Moncrieff collected examples of an unusual kind of blue
and white embroidery during her stays in China. This embroidery
is very different from the multi-colored silk thread embroidery
most often associated with China because it is worked on cotton
or other simple plant fiber fabric using indigo-dyed cotton thread.
She purchased many examples of this blue and white work. Some
dated from as early as the 1850s; others were created by local
artisans specifically for Moncrieff and her family and friends.
Embroideries on display at the museum include panels from bed
hangings, cushion covers, and other household linens as well as
samplers embroidered with a variety of stitches and patterns.
The Moncrieff collection contains more than 100 pieces, most of
which are blue and white "rural" embroideries worked
in cross stitch or satin stitch on even weave fabric - linen,
ramie, cotton, and even banana plant fiber material. The blue
thread, ranging from robin's-egg blue to inky black, was dyed
with a solution of natural indigo. The patterns and images embroidered
on the pieces are rich in symbolism with roots in the cultural
traditions of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Similar collections
of this kind of embroidery are preserved in collections at the
Field Museum in Chicago, the Basel Museum in Switzerland, and
the Sovereign Hill Gold Museum in Ballarat, Australia.
The San Bernardino County Museum is located at the California
Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open
Tuesdays through Sundays and holiday Mondays from 9 a.m. to 5
p.m. General admission is $6 (adult), $5 (student or senior),
and $4 (child 5 to 12). Children under 5 and Museum Association
members are admitted free. Parking is free, and the facility is
handicapped-accessible. Lunch, snacks, and beverages are available
at the museum's Garden Café from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There
is no extra charge for the special exhibit, "Signs in the
Designs," or for the September 11 gallery talk. For more
information, visit www.sbcountymuseum.org or call (909) 307-2669 / TDD/TTY: (909) 792-1462.