Monday, 30 November 2009

NEW! Costume Curating Class!

The Vassar College Costume Collection has just been awarded an NEH Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions! Now, we need YOU to help carry out the grant program!

The Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC) is a collection of original historic clothing, dating from the 1850's to the present, that is maintained as a research collection within the costume shop of the Drama department. This grant will allow us to bring 3 professionals from the field of costume history to lead workshops for Vassar staff, students, and community members. Students can get credit for participating in these workshops, by registering for an independent study in Drama with Arden Kirkland or Holly Hummel. 

For students who are interested in museum work, this project will provide wonderful hands-on experience with museum quality objects. Working with professional consultants, participants will learn best practices for proper handling of costume objects, assessment and documentation of their condition, museum cataloging procedures, and stabilization and mounting techniques to conserve and safely display the objects.


Workshop 1 – end of January
Conservator Jonathan Scheer will introduce participants to the proper handling and storage of textiles and historic costumes. As a part of his visit, he will conduct a formal general preservation assessment, examining our physical environment, types of storage, and current record keeping, using the assessment as an opportunity to discuss best practices with workshop participants. Then he will model the full process of creating a condition report for an object from the collection, and supervise participants to develop their own condition reports of other objects. 
Workshop 2 – beginning of February
Costume historian Jessa Krick will teach participants best practices for cataloging historic costume. Working with an object from our collection, she will model how to write a detailed catalogue entry, and then supervise participants working in teams to develop their own catalogue entries. She will also discuss how to write labels appropriate for an exhibition. 
From these 2 workshops, we will develop a procedure guide for the handling, storage, and documentation of our collection. To follow up throughout the semester, each participant will continue working on condition reports and catalogue entries for an additional 3 objects per week. Weekly labs will bring all participants together, so that hands-on work is done under the supervision of the participating Vassar faculty.
 Workshop 3 – mid-April
Costume conservator and historian Colleen Callahan will be in residence for  a 5 day workshop on basic stabilization and exhibition mounting techniques. This workshop is based on successful workshops by Ms. Callahan at Mt. Holyoke in 2006 and Smith in 2008 (see ). Each participant will be assigned one object from the collection to work with (based on their skill level), and will perform the necessary sewing to stabilize it and properly mount it on a mannequin. This will include both formal class sessions and laboratory sessions, and will take place over a long weekend to allow for full day sessions when student participants are not in other classes.
At the end of the semester, while the objects are all mounted, we will photograph them and host a small exhibition to the public. The photographs and other information about the objects will eventually be available to the public online, as part of our digital collection.
Interested students should contact Arden Kirkland ( right away to register for the independent study. Interested faculty, staff, and community members should also contact Arden to arrange to participate. 

You guys, take advantage of this amazing opportunity. I would kill to be in this class, but I'll be eating ragu and tiramisu in Bologna next semester, woe is me. Anyway, TAKE THIS CLASS. PLAY WITH OLD CLOTHING. IT'S AWESOME.

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