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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Textiles of Change: How Arpilleras can Expand Traditional Definitions of Records


In the 1970s, Chilean women began creating textiles known as arpilleras (from the Spanish word for burlap) as a way of documenting their lives and experiences. Under the Pinochet regime (1973-1990), arpilleras depicting the difficult, often violent, experiences of Chilean women began to gain global recognition. Through an internship with the Tower Museum archives in Derry~Londonderry in Northern Ireland, I worked with a collection of arpilleras that had been donated by Roberta Bacic, a Chilean lecturer currently living in Northern Ireland who has focused her research on arpilleras. Considered to be both museum artifacts and archival records, these textile works challenge classical professional distinctions drawn between the two categories. Situating their dual categorizations within a combined museum and archival setting allows us to rethink the ways in which traditional definitions of archival records may not only exclude women's voices but also fail to consider how gendered activities and expressions might play a role in records’ formation.

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