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New Exhibition at The Ukrainian Museum
Timeless Treasures: Recently Acquired Folk Costumes and Textiles

November 12, 2017 – February 24, 2019


The Ukrainian Museum opens its new exhibition Timeless Treasures: Recently Acquired Folk Costumes and Textiles to the public on November 12, 2017. On display for the first time, the exhibition features more than eighty exquisite textiles: twenty complete folk costumes from various regions of Ukraine, intricately woven wrap skirts, richly embroidered shirts and ritual cloths, elaborate headdresses, accessories, outerwear, and much more. Timeless Treasures is curated by Lubow Wolynetz, curator of the Museum's Folk Art collection, and guest curator, Ihor Perevertniuk, Ethnographic Researcher, Ivan Honchar Museum, National Center of National Culture (Kyiv, Ukraine).

The collection, purchased from private collector Ivan Bernatsky, reflects the ethnographic singularities of the mid-19th century to the first half of the 20th century. It is particularly notable in that it includes multiple examples of textiles from the major regions of Ukraine, enabling us to study not only regional variations but also the rich variety within specific regions. The six historic regions of Ukraine represented in this collection are: Bukovyna, Hutsul, Pokuttia, Polissia, Poltava, and Western Podillia.

The range of styles, colors, and component parts of the traditional costumes from one region to another will astonish the visitors to the exhibition. The effort required to produce the hand-made embroidered and woven goods was considerable. Indeed, almost all the textiles needed for both daily and festive folk dress were home-produced across all regions, as factory-made textiles were very rarely used before the 20th century. The regional differences and similarities are seen in the specialized styling, choices in colors, and consistency of regional motifs, as well as in the embroidery techniques, woven patterns, textures, ornamentation, and costume accessorization.

As the renowned Ukrainian-born artist Ilya Repin (1844-1930) once wrote:
Only [Ukrainian] and Parisian women know how to dress tastefully! You won't believe how charmingly [Ukrainian] maidens and bachelors dress it's truly a practical, comfortable, and graceful attire, notwithstanding the sturdy boots. And what necklaces, ducats!!! And what headdresses, flowers!!! And what facial features!!! And what speech, expressions!!! Simply charming, charming, and charming!

Ethnographic regions represented in the exhibition

For many centuries, the Bukovyna region in southwestern Ukraine was dominated by various European powers. Today, only the northern section of this region lies within the borders of Ukraine. Bukovyna folk costumes are characterized by their wealth of textiles, by the variety of weaving and embroidery techniques used, and by their unique color combinations. Also noteworthy is the use of materials such as seed beads, sequins, metal threads, fur, and imported textiles, in addition to homemade textiles.

The Hutsul region in the southwestern part of Ukraine includes the southern areas of the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, the northwestern areas of the Chernivtsi oblast, and the Rakhiv area of the Zakarpattia oblast. Folk costumes from the Hutsul region are noted for having preserved some elements of the oldest types of attire. The Pokuttia region in southwestern Ukraine includes the southeastern areas of the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast. Both Hutsul and Pokuttia costumes are characterized by their diverse forms and wealth of ornamentation.

The Polissia region spans all the northern oblasts of Ukraine. Its numerous dense forests, impassable marshes, and wetlands encouraged the conservation of ancient traditions. Folk costumes from Polissia are dominated by a red and white color scheme.

The Poltava region in central Ukraine includes the Poltava oblast, the left bank of the Cherkasy oblast, and the southern parts of the Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts. Folk costumes from the Poltava region are characterized by a wide variety of forms and color combinations. Although factory-made fabrics were widely used beginning in the early 20th century, this region continued to preserve the traditional look and ornamentation methods of its folk costumes.

The Western Podillia region in southwestern Ukraine includes the central and southern areas of the Ternopil oblast. Archaic construction and numerous ornamentation techniques dominated by the color black are prevalent among the folk costumes from Western Podillia.

Timeless Treasures was superbly designed by the Fizer Forley studio, a research and design office in New York City. Following their previous exhibit installations that drew from the extensive textile collections at the Museum, The Tree of Life, the Sun, the Goddess (2005) and Invitation to a Wedding (2010), the Timeless Treasures installation displays the regional particularities of textile patterns and colors along with the intricate techniques of fabrication and ornamentation.

The purchase of the collection was made possible by major support from Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union. Additional funding was provided by the Omelan and Tatiana Antonovych Foundation, the Ukrainian Museum Trustees' Circle, the Ukrainian National Women's League of America Headquarters, and numerous private donors.

Major funding for the exhibition Timeless Treasures: Recently Acquired Folk Costumes and Textiles was provided by Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, and many generous individual donors.

Timeless Treasures is complemented by an accompanying exhibition of headdresses, important components of Ukrainian folk costumes. Traditional Ukrainian Folk Headdresses: The Borshchiv and Zalishchyky Districts, on loan from the private collection of Vasyl Nayda, is comprised of wedding wreaths for brides and bridesmaids, men's headwear, married women's headwraps, as well as accessories and decorative items such as woven sashes and gerdany (seed beaded strips) from the Borshchiv and Zalishchyky districts of western Podillia.



About the Museum

The Ukrainian Museum acquires, preserves, and exhibits articles of artistic or historic significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans; its collections include thousands of items of folk art, fine art, and archival material. At its founding in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Womens League of America, the Museum was hailed as one of the finest achievements of Americans of Ukrainian descent. Since then, and particularly since its move in 2005 to a new, state-of-the-art building in Manhattans vibrant East Village, it has become known as one of the most interesting and dynamic smaller museums in New York City. Each year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes bilingual (English/Ukrainian) catalogues, and presents a wide range of public and educational programs, including concerts, films, lectures, courses, workshops, and special events.

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