The Bamboo Jacket

And Other Amazements

Story and Photos by Mary Terra-Berns

Behind the glass, thousands of tiny pieces of bamboo strung together with linen thread by an unknown artist create a raglan-sleeved jacket with a diamond pattern.

I’ve never seen anything like it, and am amazed by the time, patience, and creativity that went into this garment. As I read the description below, I learn that the jacket wasn’t created as a piece of art, it was an ingenious wardrobe item that protected the beautiful silk and satin garments worn by Chinese elite. Bamboo jackets felt cool next to the skin and absorbed perspiration during warmer and more humid months.

The bamboo jacket and other items from Asia and Europe are part of the Rhoades Emmanuel Memorial collection donated by Samuel Emmanuel to the Historical Museum at St. Gertrude, a Catholic monastery just outside Cottonwood. Emmanuel’s donation— which will move into the museum’s new “Fascinating Lives” exhibit when it’s completed later this year—honors his wife, Winifred Rhoades, who grew up on the Camas Prairie and was a well-known organist during the silent movie era. The Rhoades Emmanuel collection was gathered abroad and dates back to the Ming Dynasty, but it also relates to the museum’s gallery of Chinese artifacts from northern Idaho, immigrants having arrived from that country in the 1860s to work Idaho goldfields.

Many other collections at the museum bring the history of the Camas Prairie and surrounding area to life. Stories are told through artifacts and storyboards that strengthen knowledge and understanding of the history in this part of Idaho and bring visitors face-to-face with native people and pioneers.

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