Canada's largest rug collection now resides at the University of Calgary's Nickle Arts Museum.
Dr. Lloyd Erikson, a retired University of Alberta anatomy professor, donated 60 textile pieces valued at $2.5 million. As well, Erikson provided a $1.6 million endowment. The Jean and Marie Erikson Rug Collection, named after Dr. Erikson's wife and mother, is the largest gift the U of C has received for the arts.
"I think this is absolutely fabulous," said Nickle Arts Museum Director Dr. Ann Davis. "This is very important for the museum and U of C and it's important for Calgary and Canada. Canada is a wonderfully multicultural country. We don't often have the opportunity to show that."
The rugs date from the 16th to the 20th centuries, and most originate from Turkey, Persia or the Caucasus regions of East Asia. Dr. Erikson bought his first rug in 1949 in Lebanon when he taught physics and algebra.
"The maids would always put the rugs out on the balconies in the sunshine," recalled Dr. Erikson. "In the morning you could see this wonderful demonstration of the town's rugs being aired, and that's where I saw the variety of the rugs--it really captured my imagination."
His hobby turned serious in 1988. Dr. Erikson decided to donate the collection because of his favourable impression of Dr. Davis and a life changing experience.
"A year ago, I almost died," said Dr. Erikson at the Sept. 22 press conference. "God or the powers that be made that a wake up call. Whatever you're going to do, do."
Professor Emeritus Dr. Jed Irwin met Dr. Erikson when Dr. Irwin decided to guest curate an exhibit on rugs. The exhibit showcased rugs from Alberta collectors, including Dr. Erikson.
Dr. Irwin believes this collection could be studied in many different fields such as cultural anthropology, gender politics, religion or economics. He also believes the rugs provide first hand information, unlike slides used in art classes.
"You look at them, you touch them," said Dr. Irwin. "It separates them from paintings."
Admission to the Nickle is free for U of C students.