Book Review: The Care and Display of Historic Clothing

I admit that an algorithm served me this book when I was looking up a link to a previous book reviewed in this blog. I knew I'd have to take a look at it, so I put in my interlibrary loan request double-quick. It arrived and I now have opinions!

Karen Depauw's book is a fantastic reference for working with any type of historic clothing archive, whether it be the costume collection housed in a museum or historical society, a study archive at an educational institution, or even the inevitable section of a theatre's stock which is no longer stageworthy but is kept as research garments.

The author discusses a whole range of relevant issues, and she doesn't dictate the "right" way to do things so much as she addresses how to evaluate what one might do with the resources available, bearing in mind that most collections of historic clothing do not have the financial or professional support behind an institution such as the Metropolitan's Costume Collection.

She talks about preservation, cataloguing, handling, and storage options, and devotes whole chapters to various methods for determining the age of a garment (including handy worksheets in the appendices) and the fiber content of its fabric(s). The entire last half of the book considers aspects of exhibitions--selecting/preparing/mounting garments for display in a traditional gallery-style exhibition, but also how a curator might leverage various social media to the collection's benefit and visibility, and more traditional publication options like an exhibition catalogue, a newsletter, and inclusion in books.

As we're putting together the specs of new graduate research positions to support and preserve our own teaching collection, this book is going to serve as a reference text for those fellowships. Highly recommended!


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