The Sampler Archive is a collaborative effort between the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture; the University of Oregon’s Center for Advanced Technology in Education (CATE); and the Sampler Consortium, along with museums and historical societies across the country housing collections of American needlework samplers and related girlhood embroideries. The long-term goal of the Sampler Archive is to create a freely available and easily accessible online searchable database with information and high-resolution images of all known American samplers in public and private collections nationally and internationally.

Phase 1

Phase 1 of the Sampler Archive was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH Award # PW-50897-11) and focused on four major activities:

  1. Establish national standards and protocols for cataloging girlhood samplers and pictorial embroideries;

  2. Program an online relational database to house the Sampler Archive and test its usability with target audiences;

  3. Populate the Sampler Archive database with information and images for a minimum of 300 samplers and other girlhood embroideries drawn from the collections of three museums participating as pilot sites – the Winterthur Museum in DE, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum in Washington, DC, and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) in Providence, RI.

  4. Develop and test a dynamic web-based presence to house the Sampler Archive and related materials.

Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Sampler Archive was also funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been focused on extending the project’s database to include information and images for approximately 2300 objects. Phase 2 consists of five major strands of work:

  1. Partner with cultural heritage institutions across the country to obtain electronic catalog information and high-resolution photographs of the samplers and related schoolgirl needlework in their collections.

  2. Use the catalog information and high-resolution images to document each object in three areas: (a) Physical Characteristics, (b) Object History, and (c) Maker/Family History.

  3. Integrate the documented samplers into the Sampler Archive database and test for usability.

  4. Develop, test, and refine procedures for working with non-institutional partners to obtain information and high-resolution images of the samplers in their possession. Non-institutional partners include private collectors, families with cherished heirlooms, antique dealers, and auction houses. Noteworthy in this respect was our 2013-2014 Delaware Statewide Sampler Initiative. Similar initiatives are planned in Rhode Island, North Carolina, Louisiana, and the Hudson River Valley.

  5. Collaborate with scholars across the humanities to test and refine the Sampler Archive interface and capabilities to ensure the database provides online access to information, images, and tools in ways that advance scholarly inquiry.

Through these strands of work we are greatly increasing the number of samplers and related girlhood embroideries represented in the Sampler Archive. In addition, we are expanding the number and types of partners we are capable of working with effectively. And third, we are enhancing the degree to which the database supports both purposeful exploration and sustained study of the objects it contains.

The Sampler Archive addresses the interdisciplinary need for a unified research and reference tool providing online access to digitized information and high-resolution images for the tens of thousands of American girlhood embroideries held in public and private repositories nationwide. The Sampler Archive is designed to enhance the field of sampler scholarship by providing easy access to a large body of historic examples, described and documented using the project’s cataloguing standards and controlled vocabularies, and vetted for accuracy and clarity by a group of national scholars. Furthermore, the Sampler Archive is designed to provide direct access to information and images of needlework artifacts in an environment that facilitates examination, comparison, notation, and publication.

By the end of Phase 2 the Sampler Archive website will provide a user friendly interface, multiple ways to search or browse the information and images, and online tools for “collecting” studying, and sharing data derived from the virtual artifacts. The Sampler Archive is designed to facilitate and increase interdisciplinary interest in the study of historic samplers as important artifacts of American material culture, while simultaneously documenting the products of early female education and transnational influence on American decorative arts.