Storied Textile Museum to Permanently Close

The American Textile History Museum (ATHM), dedicated to preserving Merrimack Valley’s textile history, is going out of business.

The non-profit organization, founded in 1960 in North Andover and now based in Lowell, today said it is seeking permission from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office and the state’s highest court to dissolve the charity. All exhibits closed to the public in January and remaining programs and classes cease at the end of the month.

J. Matthew Coggins, of Andover, was elected board chair during December, 2015.

J. Matthew Coggins, of Andover, was elected board chair during December, 2015.

“This was an extremely difficult decision for all involved and certainly not the outcome we had hoped and worked for,” said the museum’s board Chair J. Matthew Coggins. “However, the board recognizes that serious operational challenges, financial shortfalls and other circumstances make it impossible to ethically and responsibly dedicate further financial assets to attempt to keep our doors open.”

Officials said many museums began to suffer following the Great Recession of 2008. A recent fundraising feasibility study showed the museum “would likely be unable to raise sufficient funds to adequately support future operations,” according to a statement. “The results indicate that although there is tremendous respect for ATHM and desire to see the museum’s mission continue, those beliefs are not supported by funding commitments.”

Museum attendance has been lower and costs higher than estimated when the museum moved in 1997 from North Andover to Lowell, officials said. Disposition of the museum’s collection would largely be under the direction of the attorney general. “Protecting and preserving the museum’s priceless collection of American artifacts is the priority of the ATHM board…”

Christopher Rogers, a member of the ATHM Board of Advisors and grandson of Caroline Stevens Rogers—who founded ATHM—said that the closure of ATHM will be a sad day, but that his grandmother was a big believer in change when change is needed.

“She’d be the first to cry for a minute for the loss, but then say, ‘It’s been incredible. Look at all the good we’ve done.’”

Previous donations will likely be transferred to other nonprofit or charitable entities. The museum has hired the Edge Group, Lowell, to begin working to sell its 65,000-square-foot condominium space at 491 Dutton St., Lowell.

Besides Coggins, officers include Barrett F. Ripley, vice chairman; Peggy Church, secretary; and Todd Smith, executive director. Trustees are Judy C. Canal, Linda C. Carpenter, Laurie Carlson Steger, Peter J. Caruso II, Gail M. Dowd, A. Garcia, Matthew Llewellyn, Eric A. Lowrey, John H. Pearson Jr., George W. Shuster, Ruth B. Ward and L. McKay Whatley. Emeritus trustees include William B. Gannett and Marlene K. Marchilena.