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Introduction and Mission


This collection policy for the Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles Inc. (AMCAT) is a public document that guides the management and development of the collection. It outlines why, what, where, how and when the museum collects, and how and why items may be deaccessioned and disposed.


AMCAT’s mission is to collect, conserve, document and display the history and heritage, of clothing and textiles from Australia’s earliest times to the present day.


The collection is a source of knowledge, ideas, stories and memories, and is a focus of community education and engagement. The collection is developed and managed as a community resource, to inspire, educate and inform the community and visitors, and to contribute to the conservation of the history and heritage of textiles and clothing.


History of the Museum


AMCAT was established by Nell Pyle OAM in 2005, with the support of the community of Maitland. The museum collection is formed around Nell Pyle’s personal collection which developed over 60 years from both a family and a theatrical collection. For many years Nell Pyle was wardrobe mistress of the Maitland Repertory Theatre, a role which developed her interest in, and collecting of, costume and textiles from the Hunter Region. In addition to working for the theatre, Nell was well known for her period fashion parades which stimulated community interest in the collection and in the history of textiles and clothing. In 2005 Nell Pyle was awarded an OAM for her significant contribution to the recording and preservation of social history through period fashion displays, theatre and writing.


AMCAT was formed from a desire to see this significant collection preserved and interpreted for the benefit of the Maitland and Hunter communities, now and in the future. In 2005 AMCAT was incorporated and secured premises in the historic Maitland Gaol, this enabled the museum to begin cataloguing and documenting the collection, organising its storage, and mounting two temporary displays a year on a wide range of themes and subjects including Summer Fun, Bomb to the Beetles, Simply Elegant, The Gentle Arts. Parades and community events continue as an integral part of the museum’s public programs and fundraising. As part of the process of significance assessment, AMCAT’s volunteers are working to refine the core museum collection, with a permanent museum collection and a larger education and community access collection for parades and public programs.


Purpose and Significance of the Collection


The purpose of the AMCAT collection is to:

  • Share stories about people and their dress, especially from the Hunter Region

  • Collect, conserve and interpret significant items of textiles and clothing from the beginnings of European settlement to the present.

  • Collect related accessories, books, photographs and other materials to aid the research and interpretation of textile and clothing history.

  • Research, document and collect the textile and clothing history of Maitland and the Hunter, with emphasis on family and personal stories and memories around clothing and textiles.

  • Develop a significant historical collection of lasting value for the community of Maitland and the Hunter.

  • Present educational programs and community events to stimulate interest and appreciation of the important place of textiles and clothing in family and community life.

  • Foster textile, needlework and design skills through access to the collection, public programs and partnership projects with like-minded organisations.

Statement of Significance

The collection of the Australian Museum of Clothing and Textiles is significant for its interpretation of aspects of twentieth century life, with a particular emphasis on women’s history and items associated with Maitland and the Hunter region.


The collection touches on major events such as war and floods, and records patterns of dress, aspects of working life, migration history, response to climate and changes in society and family life. It represents all classes, levels of wealth and clothing worn by people of different cultural backgrounds. The collection is significant for its provenanced items with richly detailed histories of their owners, use and manufacture.


It reflects the character of the Hunter Region, including working life and major industries such as agriculture, steel making and textile production. Of interest in the collection are items charting the changing patterns of textile and clothing design and consumption from the 1930s and 1940s, to the increasing affluence of the late 20th century.


The reference collection has research value for the history of dress, domestic textiles, and the textile industries. AMCAT’s collection is significant for the way it documents women’s work and their role as the makers, creators, consumers, carers and managers of textiles and clothing. It shows women’s skills and ingenuity, patterns of domestic economy, and the ‘make do and mend’ ethos in the repair and adaption of dress and domestic textiles.


The development of the AMCAT collection reflects this enduring relationship between women and textile history and culture. The collection has social value for the people of Maitland and the Hunter through its public use in period fashion parades and charitable events, and in the community’s esteem for the collection’s founder Nell Pyle.


Key Themes


The priority focus of the collection is on material from Maitland and the Hunter, although other well provenanced items may be accepted. The collection encompasses women’s, men’s and children’s clothes, domestic textiles and crafts, accessories, and related reference items. Most of collection dates from the 20th century. The collection themes are interlinked and overlap. While the collection explores changing fashions and styles, it is not essentially a fashion collection. The focus is more on telling stories about people, and the role of dress in their lives and how it is valued.


  • People of Maitland and the Hunter Valley and People of Interest

  • Rituals, Ceremonies and Special Events

  • Working, Uniforms/Occupational Dress and Sportswear

  • Journeys, Migration Stories and Cultural Dress

  • Everyday Wear

  • Make Do, Mend, Knitted/Crocheted, Austerity and Furs

  • Iconic Styles, Garments and Designers

  • Textiles Industries of the Hunter and Australia

  • Domestic Textiles, Crafts, Lace and Embroidery/Linen

  • Accessories


The Education and Museum folders are collated in themes covering the above mentioned.

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