The Historic Costume Preservation Workshop
In the Spring of 2010, the VCCC was the recipient of a Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions, from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant allowed us to bring three professionals from the field of costume history to lead workshops for Vassar staff and students. Interested students were 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.
Since the VCCC exists as a study collection, our goal of conducting a collection survey (writing catalogue entries and condition reports for many of the objects in the collection) presented a wonderful opportunity for students to have hands on experience with the objects, especially for students interested in museum work.
Early in the semester, participants worked with textile consultant Jonathan Scheer to learn best practices for proper handling of costume objects and assessment and documentation of their condition. Next, costume historian Jessa Krick led a workshop on museum cataloging procedures. Throughout the semester, participants used the skills they had learned to build documentation for the collection. Later in the semester, costume historian and conservator Colleen Callahan led a five day intensive workshop for stabilization and mounting techniques to conserve and safely display the objects. She had recently done similar workshops at Mt. Holyoke and Smith.
The work accomplished through these workshops has greatly benefited our digitization and exhibition plans, and has provided us with documentation that is necessary for future grant applications. At the end of the semester, most of our projects were successfully stabilized and mounted, so that we could share them with visitors. We have also photographed them so that the objects will be available to the public online, as part of our digital collection.