A Conference Presentation about HistoricDress.org

Over our spring break, Marla Miller, Arden Kirkland and I met at Bryn Mawr College outside of Philadelphia for the conference entitled Women’s History in the Digital World.  Marla had set up a panel to present three initiatives that work to share and cultivate research and research skills (among undergraduates, professionals and avocational scholars) on American women’s clothing. 

First to present was Astrida Schaeffer who is the lead organizer of the New Hampshire Historic Dress project.  This is an initiative sponsored through the University Museum at the University of New Hampshire, seeking to create an online searchable database and visual record of all historic clothing holdings in the state of New Hampshire.  She plans to include the many historic societies and small museums to allow virtual access by researchers to collections.  She is working on the first phase to create the database.  Next she will provide participating institutions with access to collections care assistance, information, mini-grant opportunities, volunteer training, workshops and more.  All her aims and work so far seem closely connected with those of this site.

Next, Arden spoke about an online exhibit she produced working with students at Vassar College where she works: “Fashioning an Education: 150 Years of Vassar Students and What They Wore”.  As she said, projects like this one are made possible by ten years of effort to provide digital access to the Vassar College Drama Department’s research collection of historic clothing.  She has worked with various formats (currently Omeka) with little funding or technical support.  She included detailed data and images with photographs, letters, articles and illustrations, photographed garments inside and out, and made videos and animated views which the viewer can rotate.  She highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the study of dress; the historians and librarians in the audience (which was packed into a tiny room) all agreed. You can read more about Arden’s presentation, and her thoughts on the entire conference, on her blog.

I spoke third about this project, hoping to stimulate feedback, interest and potential collaborators.  And stimulated they were.

We heard from Gayle Strege, an old friend who is the Director/Curator of the Ohio State University Collection and who has received a substantial grant to build a digital site of photographs of that extensive collection.

Patricia Keller of the University of Delaware was there and gave her support.  She is the Digital Collections Curator for the Sampler Archive Project and had made a great presentation that morning (also representing Lynne Anderson, the Project Director, who at the last minute couldn’t attend the conference).  She had worked on the development of the Quilt Index site.

There were representatives from the Litchfield Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Society.  They were especially interested and I plan to incorporate them into the project asap. One archivist was appalled that all this rich material wasn’t already available. 

Despite digital glitches (no connections with the projector/screen which is pretty ironic for a conference on digital history), the presentation was a great success.  And we also had the benefit of many other presentations, some more useful than others, but all interesting.

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