A Glimpse into Vassar’s (Secret) Closet

A selection of historic costumes from the collection will be on view in the James W. Palmer III Gallery from May 21 to June 6, 2010. Free and open to the public, the exhibition will open on Friday, May 21, with a reception from 2:00 to 4:00pm. Throughout the exhibition, the Palmer Gallery will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00pm; Sunday from 11:00am to 2:00pm; as well as by appointment by calling 437-5250.

Organized by costumer Holly Hummel, Arden Kirkland ‘93, and Candace Schuster of the Drama Department, the exhibition will offer the public a chance to see the results of an NEH funded  semester-long process of costume preservation. This exhibition will honor Holly Hummel, senior drama lecturer and costume designer, who is retiring this year. She began organizing the collection shortly after she started working at Vassar in 1981.

Historic Costume Preservation Workshop

An NEH grant allowed Vassar to bring three professionals from the field of costume history to lead workshops for 13 undergraduate students and Drama Department faculty members and administrators. The students, many interested in museum work, received independent study credit for the workshops. Documentation of the continuing work on the collection is available at the website: http://pages.vassar.edu/hcpw/.

Workshop 1 – February 3: Featured textile consultants Jonathan Scheer and Rebecca Chartier of J. Scheer and Co. of Rhinebeck and New York, who introduced participants to the proper handling, storage, and record keeping of textiles and historic costumes.

Workshop 2 – February 12: Featured costume historian Jessa Krick, who taught participants best practices for cataloging historic costumes. She discussed her cataloging work with the Costume Documentation Project for the Brooklyn Museum. Then, working with an object from Vassar’s collection, she modeled how to write a detailed catalogue entry.

Workshop 3 – April 9 – 13: Led by Colleen Callahan, currently of Costume and Textile Specialists in VA and curator emeritus of costumes and textiles at the Valentine Richmond History Center in Richmond, Virginia, was based on successful workshops led by Callahan at Mt. Holyoke in 2006 and Smith in 2008. Participants worked in teams with several objects from the VCCC and performed the necessary sewing to stabilize each object and properly mount it on a mannequin.

Students also had the opportunity to work with Stuart Belli and Edie Stout of the Chemistry department, to learn how to use several instruments that can help with the analysis of textile fibers.

Recent Events

This was another busy semester for the VCCC! Here are some highlights:

• Trying on History – On May 12, we hosted the Project Aware group (6th and 7th grade girls from Beacon), to try on reproductions of historic costumes and to get a sneak peek at some of the costumes in our exhibition “A Glimpse into Vassar’s Secret Closet.” You can see more about similar visits at http://tryingonhistory.blogspot.com/ .

• On April 6, Arden Kirkland ’93, Holly Hummel, and student Chloe Boxer ’12 presented our digital costumes at Vassar’s 8th Annual Teaching and Technology Forum. Links to showcased projects can be seen at http://delicious.com/arkirkland/TTFF10

• In January, curator Arden Kirkland ’93 worked with student Charlie Pane ’10 and Academic Computing Consultant Matthew Slaats to experiment with photography of the costumes using Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) technology. An example can be seen at http://ardenkirkland.com/QTVR/VR/1992-124-q3.html (best viewed in Safari).

• Now it’s time to start planning our next exhibition, to celebrate Vassar’s 150th Anniversary next year!

The Holly Hummel Fund for Historic Costume

Established by students and friends of Holly Hummel on the occasion of her retirement from Vassar College, the Holly Hummel Fund has been created as an expendable fund for resources needed to maintain and exhibit objects from the Vassar College Costume Collection, a research collection of historic garments dating from the mid-nineteenth century. The Fund may be used for supplies, consultant’s fees, or professional development for staff or students. The Fund will have oversight by the Department of Drama with the approval of the Dean of Faculty. The duration and extent of the program will be dependent on funds raised.

Please contact us for more information about making a donation!

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This work by Vassar College Costume Collection is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.