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BMUFA Textiles Collection


Textiles are used for keeping warm and for producing useful objects, but they are also cultural artifacts that can speak powerfully about the people who made and used them, as well as about the cultural context.

The BMUFA Textile Collection is eclectic, exemplifying a broad variety of items, contexts, and uses, whose main common feature is that they can be understood as symbolically Ukrainian. The collection thereby includes a number of cloths and garments that originate in traditional villages in Ukraine, part of the older vernacular culture, being hand woven, sewn, and embroidered to make them more beautiful for everyday or holiday occasions. They are no longer used in this way and have become "heritage," thought of primarily as artifacts illustrating Ukrainian regional embroidery patterns and clothing styles. Some of these garments and cloths were transported to Canada during the first wave of immigration 1891-1914, others came with immigrants of later waves or were bought more recently by Canadian tourists in Ukraine who acquired them as beautiful heritage objects.

A larger part of the collection consists of textiles made specifically as ethnic symbols, either in Ukraine, Canada, or elsewhere. A large collection of Ukrainian Canadian embroidered and woven pillowcases, for example, was made purposefully to beautify and to Ukrainianize Ukrainian Canadian homes. Documented and researched extensively by Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn, such embroidery work was encouraged by the leadership of the Ukrainian national movement in Canada and internationally, through magazines, community workshops, and by word of mouth. Thousands of pillowcases and embroidery samplers were created by women all across Canada and throughout the twentieth century as expressive ethnic and art objects. This collection contains a wide variety of patterns and styles, technological and aesthetic concerns. Other items made explicitly as ethnic symbols include theatrical costumes for Ukrainian staged-folk dance, for New Year’s celebration performances (Malanka), or for elegant balls.

The textile collection is also quite rich in ethnic pop culture textiles, including T-shirts and baseball caps emblazoned with a variety of Ukrainian themes, faux-embroidery printed tablecloths, and other commercial and kitsch products of the ethnic revival in North America. The collection is particular in that it has assembled clusters of items from single individuals or families, such as Elizabeth Holinaty, a renowned weaver, reconstructor, and textile artist in Edmonton; the Onufrijchuk family of Yorkton and Winnipeg, who were engaged in the sub-culture of the post WW2 Ukrainian community; and several others. Each of these focuses more or less on a particular cluster of activities, aesthetic preferences, and local variations within Ukrainian Canadian culture.

A few items in the BMUFA textile collection derive from the Ukrainian diaspora communities in Brazil, the former Yugoslavia, or were produced elsewhere in the international market of ethnic fare.

(Description created 2022-11-18 by AN)

Collection Tree

  • BMUFA Textiles Collection

Samples of embroidery stitches
Samples of embroidery stitches: zoopchyky, feather stitch, herringbone or cross stitch in green, red, yellow, orange and burgundy colours.

Souvenir T-shirt
White souvenir T-shirt with a graphic of Bart Simpson wearing wide blue trousers with a red sash, called "sharovary" and an embroidered shirt. There is the text bubble on the left side in capital letters that reads: "BART SIMPSKY!!!" and another…

Souvenir T-shirt
Neon yellow souvenir T-shirt with a black line drawing the portrait of Grogachev who has a "tryzub" (trident) earring and a birthmark on his forehead in the shape of Ukraine. The text under the head is in black capital letters and reads: "НЕ БІЙТЕСЯ…