It’s been ages since I last posted and I hope you’re all well. I thought you’d like to hear about a wonderful offer for FTC SIG members, along with the opportunity to shape an information resource that will be useful to us all.
Fairchild Books is currently considering publishing a new text titled The Fairchild Books Dictionary of Fashion Details, a visual reference for a full range of contemporary garment parts as well as classic and historical styles. Would you be interested in replying to this brief review survey to give your feedback on what you would like to see included in this text?
The physical collection, established in 1951, includes textiles, costumes and ephemera from Rhode Island and all over the world, spanning in time from ancient Egyptian cloth to garments by 20th century designers. It was developed to support teaching at the university, encourage research, and provide artifacts for use in classes and exhibitions. Only a small portion of the physical collection—which numbers more than 25,000 objects—have been photographed or digitised for inclusion in the digital collection.
One of the goals of this digital initiative is to publicise the collection and make it more accessible in an online format. In Historic Textile and Costume Collection in the Academic Setting Linda Welters and Margaret Ordoñez note that digital fashion, textile and costume collections provide for greater collection access, detailed imagery and the ability to view the collection, whilst minimising handling of the actual objects. Additionally, they point out that linked data and further information such as donor records, exhibition history and conservation issues make a digital collection more complete.
The collection uses the Omeka content management system, which allows libraries, archives and museums, as well as scholarly collections to host visual content and develop digital exhibitions. The platform is customisable to the needs of the developer, allowing a plug-and-play system without the need for advanced computer coding knowledge.
The landing page features university branding, a search bar and five main subpages: About, Browse Collections, Exhibitions, News and Contact Us. Next a visual header from an item in the collection, recently added items, a featured item, featured [sub]collection and a featured exhibit. Administrative data regarding ownership, funding information and a copyright notice are located at the foot of the page.
As of September 2021, the digital Historic Textile and Costume Collection collection has 19 thematic subcollections, with titles such as “Accessories” and “Materials of the future” which contain as few as two or as many as 70 items. Each subcollections contains metadata such as subject, title, date range, description and contributor, in addition to images and links to the digital objects. Social media links, not visible on the collection homepage do appear within the subcollection record.
The digital object record includes entries on subject, data, format, description, source, accession identifier, collection contributor, (original) creator, medium, provenance as well as an indexical subcollection hyperlink, the suggested citation and social bookmarking links. The source entry contains information related to the physical item’s donor, and in some records notates that it was a university purchase. Some objects’ records list just a name, while others have a more complete record of the item’s provenance and include information about the item’s initial appraisal. Object description ranges from a few sentences to fully-researched entries with accompanying bibliographic information.
Regarding imagery, besides a digital photograph of the full textile, there are a variety of images included in the different records. For example, the Cubist textile record from the Tirocchi subcollection contains just one image and is enlargeable. The record for the Woman’s Velveteen Top by Pucci contains a full image of the garment, and also one close-up photo of the collar and label. An enlargement of the Pucci image shows that the photo is not in a high enough resolution to allow for a closer look. However, the record for Woman’s Apron, Hutsul Culture, Ukraine, features two additional high-resolution close-up photos allowing for a very detailed inspection.
An analysis of contributors to the objects’ scholarship and description reveals a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as faculty from the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, highlighting the use of this digital collection as an important education tool used to support scholarship in the fields of fashion, textile and costume studies.
Besides the digital collection, which is accessible via the library’s digital collections website, the only other access point for the physical collection is the Quinn Hall Textile Gallery, a small rotating exhibition space on campus. The digital collection supports the gallery through digital documentation of current and previous exhibitions and allows for greater access to the collection material. For example, the most recent exhibit, Jessica Strubel’s The Kaleidoscope of Textiles: Dress as Multidimensional Cultural Documents has also been digitally curated within the collection allowing for the exhibit to be seen by a worldwide audience.
In an Analysis of University Historic Clothing and Textile Websites Catherine Murphy suggests a successful digital collection includes images, accompanying text, exhibitions, and social networking links, as well as funding, copyright and site developer information. The digital Historic Textile and Costume Collection includes all of this information and is an example of a successful digital collection. Some recommended improvements would be to develop a standard for imagery including multiple views and closeups within the digital object records, standardisation of metadata fields throughout the collection, provide links to related resources and an increase of information in the entries for some of the objects who lack detailed information.
The strength of this collection is its function—not only as a digital surrogate of the physical collection, but the department’s integration of the collection as a digital humanities laboratory and the creation, transmission and preservation of departmental scholarship.
*Header “Arts and Crafts Movement,” University of Rhode Island Historic Textile and Costume Collection
Perhaps you don’t know his name, but you likely know his work. Nudie Cohn (1902-1984), born Nuta Kotlyarenko into a family of bootmakers in imperial Kyiv, emigrated to America at the age of 11. Trained as a tailor in his youth, Cohn’s first foray into fashion was as a designer for New York burlesque dancers. Later, Cohn moved to Los Angeles and made a name for himself as a western-wear designer and is responsible for the literal eye-catching rhinestone cowboy aesthetic.
It’s better to be looked over than overlooked Nudie Cohn
The Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Archive is held by the Autry Museum of the American West and consists of 28 linear feet (65 boxes) of materials including customer clothing files, correspondence, boot patterns, financial records, photographs and publications, spanning the years 1950-1994. The Online Archive of California offers the finding aid online and breaks down the contents of 64 of those boxes.
From catalog record there is no direct link to or suggestion that any part of the collection is online, but there is a link to the museum’s online resource catalog. A search of “Nudie” returns 96 records. A very helpful note notes that of these 96 records: 37 are categorised as art and artifacts, 36 photographs and visual imagery, one sound and video record, four manuscript records, 14 Books and Serials and four are subject heading records. Hyperlinks allow the user to easily access these catalog categories. Users are also able delimit by returning only records with images.
Forty-five of the online records are visual resources, and most are not enlargeable due to copyright restrictions, like this photo of Elvis Presley modeling Cohn’s famous gold lamé suit. (More info about Cohn and Elvis can be found at this blog.)
Other interesting visual resources include scans of boot patterns for the likes of Paul Newman and Hank Williams Jr.—just two examples of the archive’s holding of more than 400 folders of boot pattern templates, which according to the scope notes include those of Gene Autry, Jackson Brown, Glen Campbell, Linda Carter, Cher, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Jerry Garcia, Billy Gibbons, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Robert Redford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others.
The Nudie collection is held at the LEED-certified 100,000-square-foot Resources Center of the Autry, located in Burbank, Calif., just north of Los Angeles. According to their website, the “Library and Archives at the Autry hold unique, rare and significant primary and secondary resources focusing on the peoples and cultures of the American West. The collections contain rare books, serials, maps, photographs, artwork, sound recordings, and manuscript collections.”
The primary access point is the pattern number, but users can also submit an advanced search by year, garment, occasion, needlework, gender, age, keyword, pattern company or collection. There are about 50,000 images in the database, some of them full size, and schematics can be printed for personal and academic use.
Along with the patterns collection, the collection also includes books, pamphlets, journals, and ephemera on the subjects related to tailoring, textiles, fashions and the commercial pattern industry. All print material in Distinctive Collections is catalogued in the URI Library Catalog.
The archive is also available for in-person visits by appointment.
As part of an overhaul of my library research guides, I created a Tumblr to post online collections and websites covering art, architecture, and design images, books, films, photography, and more. Each collection is tagged by subject so that I can directly link to those posts on the appropriate guide. There are currently 28 items tagged fashion with sub-collections including fashion plates and costume.
There are so many incredible digital collections relevant to the arts and design and we librarians know that the images and other media in these collections don’t always surface in a Google or Google Image search. Moving this content off my research guides helps with reducing information anxiety and overall web design – I no longer have massive lists of links. With Tumblr, I can post as many collections as I discover, editing or deleting when necessary.
What fashion, costume, or textile collections do you recommend?