The Home of Our NAN Collection

by Patricia Tector
Originally Published Spring 1999

We keep hearing that the NAN Collection is at the Gallery of Art & Design at North Carolina State University. What is this place and where is it?

Last things first: North Carolina State University is in Raleigh the capital of North Carolina. The Gallery of Art & Design (formerly known as the Visual Arts Center) as a facility was officially opened in 1992 and is a significant portion of the Talley Student Center centrally located on the main campus. The galleries on the second floor only allow a small portion of the permanent collection to be seen at a time in addition to traveling exhibits. Most of the permanent collection, which includes the NAN Collection, are in the archives where they are available for study.

In 1979 the first curator of art for the university was hired and the goal was to develop a catalog of the works of art which were scattered all over the campus and plan for a permanent base for current and future artwork. The content of the art collection was to be determined by the university curricula: ceramics, glass, textiles, furniture, photography, graphic, products and industrial design. In addition, art should be collected for study, historical value, significance and design inspiration not only for the students, faculty and staff of the university but also for the community and region as befitted a land grant university.

Another significant decision relating to the collections was that they should include not only exhibition quality material but also material appropriate for study and research. This decision means the collections must contain multiple examples of similar objects. Comparison and contrast, as well as study of single examples, enable students to understand and appreciate the range of decisions required to design and produce objects. The inclusion of multiple objects also permits serious research on the history of objects and their design evolution as culturally, socially and economically shaped. Faculty and staff have not only used objects to raise and discuss issues of design and aesthetics but also to understand and clarify the ways in which objects can embody social and cultural values, illustrate historical events and exemplify methods of production and the economic systems associated with them.

The curator and staff of the Gallery of Art & Design are the first to acknowledge the important association with the National Academy of Needlearts which greatly enriches the textile collections. In 1994 NAN selected the Gallery of Art & Design as its national archive. Masterworks prepared by students for teaching certification, research papers on the history of embroidery and texts collected by NAN are deposited at the Gallery of Art & Design and made available to the members of NAN and others. In addition, the staff is delighted that this association has brought new donors to the gallery.

Gallery hours are: Wednesday – Friday: noon to 8:00pm; Saturday and Sunday: 2:00 to 8:00pm; closed Mondays, Tuesdays and university holidays. It is highly recommended that you call before going, 919-515-3503, for location and parking info. Call ahead to arrange to see the collection – the staff is very accommodating. You may also visit the Gallery of Art & Design on the Internet.

(This info was garnered from “A Brief Guide to the Art, Design & Decorative Arts Collection of North Carolina State University” prepared by The Gallery of Art & Design staff, 1997 – 1998.)