United States

Goldie Paley House, 4200 Henry Avenue

Phone: 215.951.2860
Fax: 215.951.2662

The Design Center At Philadelphia University

Design is as simple as a paper clip, as complex as a city plan, as critical as a ballot. It expresses style, inspires process, clarifies thinking. It informs, excites, provokes, delights. Design defines the way we live. The Design Center at Philadelphia University is the rare institution solely devoted to design, showing us just how design shapes everyday life. Through its presentation of gallery exhibitions, enrichment programs, lectures and special events, the center reflects Philadelphia University's extensive design curriculum encompassing architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, textile design, fashion, interactive media and product design. The Center's library and collection serve as outstanding resources for scholarly research and provide inspiration to designers, artists, educators, students and aficionados.

In addition to mounting exhibitions and creating public initiatives, TDC houses Philadelphia University's extensive historical and contemporary textile collection. The collection – some 200,000 items strong – is a nationally recognized resource for the study of Western and non-Western textiles and costumes from the 1st century A.D. to the present, representing nearly every country in the world. Established during the university's tenure as the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, the collection is open to university classes, scholars, faculty and students by appointment. A special feature of the collection is an extraordinary assembly of 19th and early 20th century textiles, textile-related artifacts, and tools that document the emergence of Philadelphia as one of America's great textile producers of t... [ Read all ]

Permanent Collection

The Design Center’s Textile Collection houses over 200,000 items that reflect a broad spectrum of techniques, designs, cultures and historic periods. The collection features 2,000 year old Egyptian Coptic fragments; Pre-Colombian woven and printed textiles; elaborate European silk embroideries and brocades; Kashmir and Paisley shawls; 18th and 19th century quilts and coverlets; hand-and machine-made laces; 19th and early 20th century Chinese imperial court robes and Japanese kimonos; American and European garments, undergarments, and children’s wear from the 18th to 21st centuries; and designer clothing from the Victorian era to the present. Traditional costumes from around the world are also represented, as are a wide range of clothing accessories from stockings, shoes, hats, and gloves to parasols, beaded bags, and fans.

The collection documents the entire American textile industry, but more particularly it chronicles the history of the textile industry of Philadelphia that was one of the most diverse in the nation. Textile artifacts -- including spinning and weaving implements, machinery, technology and dye books, more than 100 swatch books, and several hundred thousand swatch cards -- tell the story of American textile manufacturing from 1780s to the present.

Recognizing the world-wide importance and significance of textiles and textile manufacturing, The Design Center’s Textile Collection continues to grow, acquiring selective donations by the faculty, the general public and industry. By providing a balance of local color, historic significance and international flavor the collection serves as an inspirational and primary resource for fashion aficionado...+ [ Read all ]


Antiques of the Future®
April 20 - June 25, 2007
Opening Reception: Friday, April 20th 6 to 8 p.m.
Design Center at Philadelphia University


Admission to The Design Center is free and open to the public. Donations are welcome. The building is wheelchair accessible.

To tour the collection or access it for study purposes, please call for reservations.

For businesses interested in using the textile archive or borrowing from its 50,000-piece swatch collection, corporate memberships are available. Contact us at 215-951-2860 or for more information.

Opening hours

The Design Center is open to the public Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. throughout the year. Additional hours are by appointment only. The center is closed on, national holidays and academic holidays. The textile collection is open by appointment only, contact us at 215-951-2860 or for more information.

Getting there

The Design Center, located in the Goldie Paley House, was founded in 1978 as the Paley Design Center, an exhibition space for regional fine art, and a home to a textile archive for Philadelphia University (formerly the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science). The building is located on the campus of Philadelphia University in the East Falls section of the city.

Museum internal and external photos (5)

Click on the images to enlarge


The Design Center presents unique exhibitions for academics in a variety of fields and features primary resource materials for scholars of American History; World History; World Cultures and Folklore; Textile, Fashion and Graphic Design.


The Design Center offers a variety of community activities including exhibition-themed design workshops for children and their families. TDC runs community programs for groups such as the Girl Scouts and area schools. We serve as a destination for national touring groups, and as a site for Liberty Lacers lace-making workshops. Often TDC creates exhibition-themed display cases for the Free Library of Philadelphia, Falls of Schuylkill Branch. For more information, contact us at (215) 951-2860 or


The Design Center serves as a unique resource for ideas, information and primary source materials for students in design fields and across the curriculum. The Center’s professional staff assists students in selecting and investigating topics for writing seminars, research papers and capstone projects.

In addition, TDC hosts exhibition openings, receptions, field trips and special events that encourage students and alumni from various disciplines to mingle and get to know one another outside of traditional classroom and day-to-day experiences.


By appointment, The Design Center welcomes industry professionals to peruse the textile collection and library. The archive’s 50,000-piece swatch collection is available for short-term loans. For membership information, contact us at (215) 951-2860 or