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Dorothy Burnham

FYI, colleagues…


From: mdusenbury@xxxxxxxxxx (Mary Dusenbury)


Dorothy K. Burnham died peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, October 23, 2004.


Born in 1911, Burnham joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum in

1929 as a "second assistant draftsman" and became its first curator of textiles in 1939. Her many carefully researched and beautifully presented books, monographs and exhibition catalogues explored Canadian textile arts and provided research models for several generations of textile scholars who followed in her footsteps. She was known to many of us for her Cut my Cote (1973), Keep me Warm One Night: Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada (with husband Harold B. Burnham, 1972), Warp and Weft:

A Textile Terminology (1980) and many other books, monographs, and exhibition catalogues on Canadian textile arts, some broad in scope, others sharply focused. After her retirement from ROM in 1977, she continued to work on special research projects for that museum and for the National Gallery of Canada, the provincial Museum of Alberta and the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Her 1992 exhibition catalogue To Please the Caribou: Painted Caribou-Skin Coats Worn by the Naskapi, Montagnais, and Cree Hunters of the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula won critical acclaim for her innovative and illuminating methodology. When she was ninety, she collaborated with Judy Thompson, Judy Hall and Leslie Tepper to produce Fascinating Challenges: Studying Material Culture with Dorothy Burnham (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2001).


In 1998 Burham received an honorary doctorate from Trent University. In her convocation address to the graduating class she told them:

Life slowly opened up in front of me, leading me on to a path where I was fortunate enough to find a way of making a living that I was good at, and, even more importantly, that I thoroughly enjoyed ......my wish for you is that in spite of all the cutbacks and complications of the present time, you will find a joyous path to follow.



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