Examine the textiles that gave the Silk Road its name, and travel across the trade routes that connected the cultures of Afro-Eurasia for centuries as The Ohio State University at Marion hosts a special art exhibition of textiles, jewelry, and gemstones titled, “The Silk Road” in the Wayne & Geraldine Kuhn Fine Arts Gallery in Morrill Hall, January 22 through March 15, 2024.

Exhibit hours will be daily Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.to 5 p.m. and Thursday evenings in February from 5-7 p.m.

The community is invited to attend a free public opening reception for the exhibit Monday, January 22, from 12:30-1:30 p.m., in the Kuhn Gallery. Ohio State Marion Dean & Director, Gregory S. Rose; Professor Jim Genova, head of Ohio State Marion’s history program; Assistant Professor of Premodern World History, Amanda Respess; and Director of The Ohio State University Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection, Gayle Strege will welcome guests and share their insights at the opening reception before inviting everyone to take a tour through the exhibit.  Sweets and teas from China, India, and the Middle East will be served.

“The Silk Road” exhibit weaves together the brilliant colors and feather-light textures of silks from China, India, the Islamic world, and Europe, telling the story of silk and the history of movement across empires and time. Historic textiles, jades, and jewels from the 1400’s to the present illuminate the origins of commerce and connections in the Old World and provide design inspiration for today. Featuring luxurious gowns, religious banners, brocades, saris and the designer fashions of Oscar de la Renta and Dior.

Pieces for “The Silk Road” exhibit are on loan from The Ohio State University’s Historic Costumes and Textiles Collection, the Orton Geological Museum, and the Department of History. Donated by private collectors, Ohio families, the government of Uzbekistan or collected directly by Ohio State faculty and curators, the materials in the exhibit tell a wide-ranging visual story about the origins of the Silk Road and cross-cultural commerce across Afro-Eurasia.

Jades from China and Southeast Asia, incense from the Mideast, and precious stones collected by the famed seventeenth-century gem-trader and diamantaire, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, in his journeys across Asia and the Islamic world highlight the non-textile materials that circulated on the Silk Road. Exquisite silk textiles from the late medieval to modern periods from the entire geographic expanse of the trade routes map the spread of silk technology and design across the globe. The ethics of Orientalist collecting in the colonial period are also explored in a reproduction of images of looted art from the cave walls of the Buddhist grottoes of Mogao, China, and in a replica of the Hope Diamond, the largest remnant of the most infamous of the Tavernier gems of Indian origin, Louis XIV’s Blue Diamond.

History is one of 10 Ohio State degree programs available entirely at Ohio State Marion, and according to Ohio State Marion Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Amanda Respess, her interest in the exhibit and involvement comes from her own research interests in this area.

“My own research is focused on the Maritime Silk Road, the sea routes that connected the ports of premodern East Asia with the Indian Ocean. I usually study shipwrecks from these routes and am used to working with the types of cargo we find underwater that can survive those conditions, quite often that means ceramics,” said Respess. 

“Fabrics like silk and many organic materials that were trade goods don’t do too well under water,” she added. “So, for me, the textile collection at Ohio State is a dream because I can look at the original silk pieces that were traded and see the points of connection and inspiration that weavers took from one another as silk technology spread from China to the rest of Asia, the Islamic world, and eventually Europe.”

Respess shared that last academic year she was teaching a new class on museum studies that she created for the history department, and Gayle Strege, the curator of Ohio State’s historic costumes and textiles collection, came to speak to her students.  

“She was a big hit! She was able to give them a personal, first-hand view of what it is like to run a collection and during that discussion I realized how extensive and amazing (and old!) Ohio State’s collection is,” Respess explained.  “I knew I was going to be teaching my Silk Road history class this spring, so I chatted with Gayle about collaborating on an exhibit that my students could use to see the materials up close and personal,” she added.
Respess anticipates campus and community members that visit the free public art exhibit will take away a newfound appreciation for the history and impact the Silk Road made on the premodern world.

“I hope visitors come away with an understanding of the origins of the Silk Road and how many cultures played a part in long-distance exchange across premodern Afro-Eurasia.  I hope that by looking at these incredibly beautiful textiles from China, India, the Islamic world, and the West, visitors will recognize the movement of designs, motifs, and methods that have travelled the world through cultural exchange over the centuries,” Respess shared.

“We selected pieces that demonstrate how certain techniques or patterns moved from place to place, jumping borders and inspiring even what we wear and buy today,” she added.
“I also hope that our discussion of the looting of materials from the Silk Road in the early modern and modern periods by European governments and travelers will encourage some thinking about who has access to this important cultural heritage today,” said Respess.
The exhibit will also be open special hours for our Thursday, March 14, 2024, Five Nights on Campus performance of Ryan Hood until 9 p.m.


About The Ohio State University at Marion

Established in 1957, The Ohio State University at Marion is part of The Ohio State University’s statewide system of campuses. Students at Ohio State Marion benefit from personal attention in small classes and a culture of caring that permeates the campus, while also enjoying unparalleled access to world renown faculty experts and the breadth and depth of opportunity synonymous being part of one of the most comprehensive and respected public research universities in the world.  Students at Ohio State Marion can begin one to three years of 200+ Ohio State majors, later making the seamless transition to the Columbus campus, or complete their Ohio State degree in biology, business, education, engineering technology, English, history, psychology, RN to BSN, and social work entirely on the Marion campus.