Right before Thanksgiving we found out that our NEH proposal for a Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions was accepted! This grant will allow us to bring three professionals from the field of costume history to lead workshops for Vassar staff and students. Selected students will be able to get credit for participating in this Historic Costume Preservation Workshop (HCPW), by registering for an independent study in Drama, History, or Victorian Studies.

For students who are interested in museum work, this project will provide wonderful hands-on experience with our museum quality objects. Early in the semester, participants will work with textile conservator Jonathan Scheer to learn best practices for proper handling of costume objects and assessment and documentation of their condition. Then costume historian Jessa Krick will lead a workshop in museum cataloging procedures. Throughout the semester, participants will use the skills they have learned to build documentation for the collection. Later in the semester, costume historian and conservator Colleen Callahan will lead a five day intensive workshop for stabilization and mounting techniques to conserve and safely display the objects. She has recently done similar workshops at Mt. Holyoke and Smith.

The work accomplished through these workshops will greatly benefit our digitization and exhibition plans, and will provide us with documentation that is necessary for future grant applications. At the end of the semester, while the objects are all mounted, we hope to 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.

This was a very busy year for the VCCC, and it looks like 2010 will be just as busy! Here are some highlights from this past year:
•    Digital Objects in the Classroom (DOC)– Our team at Vassar College received a grant from NITLE to host a workshop, on March 16-17, 2009, to explore the subject of digitizing material culture collections for classroom use. Teams of faculty, librarians, instructional technologists, and media specialists came from institutions across the country to participate. For more information, see http://grou.ps/digitalobjects
•    NERCOMP workshop – On May 19, our DOC team traveled to MA to make presentations for a workshop for the NorthEast Regional Computing Program,  also about digitizing material culture for classroom use.
•    Care of Textiles class – in May, Co-Curator Arden Kirkland took an online course offered by the Northern States Conservation Center, to learn more about taking care of textile collections.  As a result, we’ve identified some important changes we need to make in our storage  area, for the preservation of the objects. Our NEH grant will cover some of these improvements, but it is likely that we’ll need to seek more support for the continued maintenance of the collection
•    Trying on History –In May, we hosted the Project Aware group (11-18 year old girls from Beacon), to look at historic objects and try on reproductions. Then in October, two Vassar classes came to do this activity. Throughout the year, we continued our reproduction project, generously funded by the Carolyn Grant ’36 Endowment Fund.

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