This summer I spent ten weeks interning at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) in the Costume and Textiles Department. However, thanks to the museum’s robust educational program, part of my time was spent meeting with the PMA’s various employees, and receiving tours of the institution’s storage and gallery space.
In the Costume and Textiles department, I developed a range of collections management skills. I learned how to vacuum and roll textiles, many of which were multiple yards long. I made custom padded hangers and helped measure hundreds of the museum’s collection of hats. All of these tasks meant that I spent many days in and out of the department’s impressive storage facilities. Going into storage was always a treat, as each visit exposed me to at least one object (if not several) that I had never seen before.
Measuring hundreds of women’s hats in the museum’s collection provided me with a comprehensive historic survey of this accessory. The hats in question ranged from late nineteenth century pieces, to mid–twentieth century sculptural pieces and beyond. This project also allowed me to gain further experience working in The Museum System, as the measurements we took needed to be digitally recorded in the museum’s database. Throughout my time in the department, I also worked routinely in TMS to update object files pertaining to the museum’s collection of American samplers. The objects in question consistently displayed an astounding amount of skill and detail, considering that they were embroidered by young children. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this project was the genealogical research involved, which was necessary to verify who in fact had created each piece.
Throughout my time in the department, Kristina Haugland, The Le Vine Associate Curator of Costume and Textiles and Supervising Curator for the Study Room, was in the process of organizing two upcoming exhibitions, Fabulous Fashion: From Dior’s New Look to Now and Little Ladies: Victorian Fashion Dolls and the Feminine Ideal. Thanks to this fact, I had the opportunity to help dress mannequins for photography and exhibition, as well as gain first–hand insight into what goes into the final push to mount and exhibition.