Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Find it online: South & Central American Objects in the Textile & Costume Collection


T&CC 2020.1.58, Mola, San Blas Islands, Panama

by Jade Papa

We’ve made some enormous strides inventorying and digitizing the massive collection of textiles, fashion, and other odds and ends held here at the Design Center.  Our goal is to make these pieces more accessible to students, faculty, and other interested researchers online via JStor.  As of this posting, you can peruse over 5,500 different objects and start to get a sense of the treasures we have behind these walls. 

Included in the Textile and Costume Collection’s holdings are incredible examples of dress from around the world.  Over the last few years, it’s been a priority for me to document these pieces.  Our collection of African objects went online in 2020 coinciding with a talk I gave at the Woodmere Museum of Art.  And thanks to the efforts of the staff at the Design Center, I’m thrilled to say that our entire collection of South and Central America objects are now available on JStor.  This project was started by student Gabby Ramos whose work, even though she’s now graduated, is still having an impact.

These objects can easily be found on JStor by searching the phrase “South and Central America.”  From there, you can scroll through the 176 objects to your heart’s delight.  Alternatively, if you know the specific country of origin for the pieces you’d like to see, you can type that information into the search bar. 

T&CC 2019.3.21 Quechquemitl, Mexico

Left to right: T&CC 2021.1.66 Tzute or headcloth, Guatemala; T&CC 1974.51.1 Shigra bag, Ecuador; T&CC 2019.3.61 Sombrero, Mexico.

Above left: T&CC 1980.5.1 Jacket worn by Aymara women who live in the Andes and Altiplano regions of Bolivia (and to a lesser extent in Peru, Chile and Argentina)
Right: T&CC 2019.3.28 Huipil, Guatemala

As with all our pieces, we strive to provide accurate descriptions and proper identification of these objects.  If you have something to add or notice an error, please email us at and let us know. 

There’s nothing like seeing these pieces in person, so if you happen to be on campus this spring semester, stop by Hayward Hall to see examples of a few of our Guatemalan molas.  You’ll find them in a wall case near the weaving studios.  

And stay tuned!  We’ve got more non-Western pieces coming your way.  Collection manager Ann Wilson has photographed all of our Japanese kimono and haori and we hope to have those online for you very soon!

Curator and Adjunct Professor, Textile & Costume Collection, The Design Center, Thomas Jefferson University

Images of objects in our collection are copyrighted by Thomas Jefferson University. For inquiries regarding permissions and use fees, please contact: