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Historic Delaware Rug to Share its Stories

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WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - An upcoming exhibition at Hagley Museum & Library is like no other in the history of the Greenville-area historic site.

There's only one thing in it - a unique rug that, at 10 by 12 feet, is the largest hooked rug in the museum's collection. Museum leaders also say it was the world's first rug made of nylon.

"In this exhibition, guests will have the opportunity to slow down, focus, see and deeply understand many of the stories this one extraordinary object has to tell," Director of Museum Services Joan Hoge-North said in a statement.

"Every object in our own lives represents a variety of stories about us and how we live our lives," she said. "The same is true of all the objects in a museum collection."

The experimental and unprecedented exhibition, called "Unraveling Stories," will share four stories through examination of the rug. They are the stories of the artistic tradition from which it came, the narrative its images depict, the science behind experimental materials used to make it and the personal story of its artist.

The artist was Nancy du Pont Reynolds Cooch of Greenville, who died at home Jan. 21 at the age of 95. She was the wife of Edward W. Cooch Jr., who died in 2010.

She was a sculptor who pioneered Lucite carving, also working in bronze, with numerous one-artist shows and exhibited at such prestigious sites as the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

She created the crucifix statue at the du Pont Family Chapel in Greenville and her work is represented in numerous private collections as well as permanent collections of many museums and facilities.

Cooch - active in numerous art-, heritage- and garden-related groups, along with historic-restoration efforts - also was involved in textiles, having researched and designed more than 400 needlepoint kneelers for Christ Episcopal Church in Greenville and wrote a book called "Needlepoint Kneelers" on their religious symbolism.

She designed and created the rug in the late 1940s. A friend of hers in the DuPont Co.'s nylon department wanted to know if the breakthrough material would be good for carpets and rugs, Hagley spokeswoman Meg Marcozzi said.

"Mrs. Cooch had the nylon yarn dyed to her specifications and made this rug," she said.

At the rug's center, the artist - who was the daughter of the late Eugene Eleuthere and Catherine Dulcinea Moxham duPont - portrayed the American Eagle, the ship that brought the du Pont family from France to America in 1799-1800. She surrounded the ship with icons important to her family, also documenting Delaware history. They include the Brandywine, where the family used its water power for its industry, gunpowder mills that were their first American manufacturing product, the Eleutherian Mills Residence and barn, the first DuPont Co. office and Christ Church, which the family attended.

"In addition to displaying her family's story, Mrs. Cooch included something of her own: her little dog, Huffy," Marcozzi said.

She worked the rug in a technique that first became popular in the 1850s, Marcozzi said. Such rugs are made by hooking fabric loops such as yarn or cloth strips into fabric, she said. Their popularity boomed after the introduction of burlap, she said, "because its loose weave served as an ideal base."

Leftover scraps of cloth or fabric from household textiles often were used, she said.

"Early hooked rug makers had to create the pattern and hook the rug," Marcozzi said. "Interest in hooked rugs dwindled by the late 19th century, but popularity returned during the Colonial Revival period in the 1920s."

Its exhibition opens March 20 and runs through July 26. The exhibition is included in admission, which is $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, $5 for children 6 to 14, and free for members and children 5 and younger.

Exhibition-only admission is $6 for adults, seniors, and students; $2 for children 6-14; and free for members and children 5 and under.

For more information, call 302-658-2400 weekdays or visit hagley.org

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