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Monday, July 25, 2011

Anatomy of a catalog record

By Eunice Haugen

Have you ever wondered what all those numbers on a museum object label are? Each object in a museum collection is assigned a unique number (ID) or catalog number. Catalog numbers are usually a 10 digit three part sequence; the first four numbers represent the year in which the transaction was made, the second set of three numbers is the transaction ID, usually this is either a donation or purchase, and the third set of three numbers designate the object number. In some circumstances there will be an extension to this number such as a,b which denote an object with multiple parts such as a teapot with a lid. So if I were to catalog a teapot that came to the museum in 2011 and was the second acquisition of the year and was the 5th object in a group of ten which all from the same source the number would be 2011.002.005a-b. That's a catalog number.

P.S. The first seven digits are considered the accession number and are the record of the transaction

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sculptural shoes

Modern platforms began to appear in the late 1930's, and initially were marketed as beach shoes. They were worn in France during World War II, but did not become popular in the United States until around 1945. After World War II, they were no longer popular in France, but did not disappear in the United States until 1954. They started to return in 1969 and by 1974 were reached heights of up to six inches. They also were revived in the 1990's and seem to be having a moment again this summer, which I will be enjoying vicariously through GMD's shoe collection.



We have a small display case that we use to show examples of smaller pieces in our collection. Looking through GMD's shoes, I found a variety of different styles of platform shoes. Two of the examples I chose are from the 1940's (the black and red sandals and the beige sandals) and one is from the late 1970's (the green sandals).

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There is quite a wide range of different styles of platforms, and I thought these styles were indicative of some of the different ways that platforms have been used. The beige shoe from the 1940's has a more moderate platform and heel, although the red and black shoe has five inch heels.



The green shoe is rather like a miniature sculpture, given how the--six inch--heel curves in to give the impression that the wearer's heel is floating.



If you are in McNeal hall to see our current exhibition, stop by Room 364 to see the shoe display, which will be up into September.

For more information on shoes:

The Seductive Shoe: Four Centuries of Fashion Footwear by Jonathan Walford

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Catalogs at your convenience!

Today, I took new board members on a tour of GMD's McNeal Hall facilities, including the gallery, collection store rooms, research center, and work space. We did not tour the catalog inventory room. This small space contains boxes of publications that were developed for previous exhibitions and for which we still have a number of each, unsold. Occasionally, we get requests to purchase some of these items, but most of them have been sitting in storage for some time.

In contrast, the catalog for "Beyond Peacocks and Paisleys" is GMD's first print-on-demand production. The process is very similar to a standard print prep, but the lack of inventory enables a person or organization to put together a very professional publication with little to no print costs. As a result, the donations that were raised for this project went to beautiful photographs of about half of the exhibition. Evan Baden, the photographer working on the digital collections database, produced wonderful photographs that captured the fine details of the textiles and conveyed to a reader the excitement of these items. Hazel Lutz, one of the exhibition's co-curators wrote the essay and Anna Carlson, the other co-curator, developed the thematic descriptions.


Take a look at this and see how this sustainable process resulted in a valid record of this exhibition. The catalog can be found on GMD's website here:

Urban Planning for the Bike

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

Current city design is based on the philosophy that everyone has a car and uses that car to commute. In city planning of the 1950s, reason said that if a person did not have a car, they would either walk to where they needed to go, or take a bus or train. Bikes were never considered when the cities we live in were designed. However, over the past decade, as gasoline prices have risen and environmental impact has seeped into more people's consciousness, the amount of bicycle traffic has exploded. This has created a great need for a complete rethink about the design of the city in order to accommodate the rapidly growing number of people that bike as their mode of transportation, whether it be to work or just for fun.

There are great benefits to cycling on a regular basis, especially commuting to work. First, it creates ZERO emissions, which is something that more people are becoming aware of. Second, while driving your car is becoming increasingly expensive, riding a bike from point A to B doesn't cost a thing. This is especially true considering that many people that work in the city have to also pay to park. I myself save $3.75 in parking fees every day that I ride in to work instead of drive. Third, and maybe one of the biggest benefits, is the health benefit. Many people in the U.S. cannot stand to exercise, but obesity is one of America's biggest long-term health problems. Leisurely cycling burns around 300 calories/hour, and that little bit of exercise first thing in the morning will keep your metabolism elevated all day. Perhaps the best thing about cycling in to work is that your exercise is simply incorporated into your daily routine, it's not something that you have to go out and do extra. This also saves money in the form of unused gym memberships. Fourth, if you live within 12-15 miles of where you work, it usually doesn't take that much longer to ride than it does to drive, and in some cases (such as myself) it can actually be faster to ride to work than to drive.

However, cycling (especially during busy rush hours) has many issues that still need to be resolved. Many of those revolve around where to ride so that you can ride safely. While it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, many people would rather ride on the sidewalk than ride in a busy street.


A UPS truck blocks the bike lane

In the Twin Cities there are specified bike lanes. However, they are often few and far between, begin and end abruptly, and are usually only on main thoroughfares. If you want to ride from point A to B, you will most likely have to ride on a street that does not have a bike lane at some point during the trip. That leaves you vulnerable to traffic. One simple solution is to just create more bike lanes (after all, they're just paint on the road). But in order for that to be of use, they would have to be on every major street that goes both East/West and North/South. For example, major streets in St. Paul, such as University, Lexington, Grand, Randolph, Cleveland, Selby, and Dale have no designated bike lane. On other streets, such as Como or Marshall, the bike lanes abruptly stop.


Abrupt ending to a bike lane

Ron Gabriel pointed out a number of these issues in his small study of a single intersection in New York City (video above). There are many issues that are pointed out in this small video. 1) There are no designated lanes for bikes 2) cyclists do not obey the rules of the road and 3) automobile drivers do not pay attention to the cyclists around them. These are all issues because city planners have never viewed bicycle travel as a serious mode of transportation. Without dedicated space and rules of the road for cyclists, they tend to do whatever they like.

There has been much enthusiasm for the type of bike lane that New York and Chicago have been installing. These bike lanes are actually placed to the right of parked cars, so that the parked cars protect the cyclists from traffic. Minneapolis has also played with this idea. This is a good start, but in this type of bike lane, making a left turn becomes problematic because there is a lane of parked cars in the cyclists way. The other problem with this lane style is that automobile drivers can't see the cyclists. This is the same problem with bikes on the sidewalks. When a car makes a right turn, they do not see the cyclist coming because there are usually parked cars blocking the view of both the driver and cyclist.


Chicago's New 100 Mile Bike Lane Project

There are other good ideas coming out of Portland and Chicago. In addition to protected bike lanes, they have been experimenting with the "Bike Box." This is something that I recently saw in Barcelona, only there it was being used for mopeds. Basically, it is an area at stoplights where bikes will go to make turns and get in front of traffic so that they are more visible.


Bike Box Sketch by Steven Vance


"Bike Box" in Portland, OR

However, the best example I have seen is a test lane on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. where the bike lane was placed in the center of the street, complete with turn lanes and two-way traffic. The turn lanes actually give the cyclist a head start over cars when making left turns. This type of lane could also use color to increase visibility. Still not sure how right turns work from something like this, but it is the best design I have seen at this point.


Pennsylvania Avenue Bike Lane Project

In the future, as gas prices and environmental awareness increase, bicycles will present themselves as a great option. Urban planning will be the only thing that holds the bicycle's potential back.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Art, Fashion & Frivolities: La Gazette du Bon Ton


Sea Breeze, André Edouard Marty, dress for wedding voyage by Doeuillet, 1921, Accession no. 1997.067.027

Once upon a time, magazines contained illustrations that offered artists' interpretations of the latest fashions. One can look to old issues of Vogue or Harper's Bazaar to see examples of fashion illustrations, but some of the best examples can be seen in La Gazette du Bon Ton, which was published intermittently between 1912 and 1925. In French the term "Bon ton" refers to timeless good taste and refinement and the magazine was aimed at the wealthiest echelons of Parisian society. The magazine was sponsored by seven of the top haute couture houses, including the houses of Poiret and Worth, so that their designs were shown only in the Gazette.


Which One?, Georges Lepape, evening gown by Paul Poiret, 1913, Accession no. 1997.067.016

The articles were fairly trivial, if mercifully humorous, but one cannot expect gravity from a magazine whose tagline is "Art, fashion, frivolities." The illustrations, however, were exquisite. Initially, the plan was to have only illustrations of designer gowns, but the artists wanted more creative license. Thus, each issue contained ten full-page fashion plates, seven of which were based on actual haute couture designs and three of which were styles invented by the illustrator. Some of the more important illustrators whose work was featured includes Georges Lepape, George Barbier and André Edouard Marty.


Woman and Puppets, Georges Lepape, 1913, Accession no. 1997.067.005

In the years prior to World War I, fashion began to change and the fashions of the time were conducive to the kinds of illustrations featured in the Gazette. Poiret realized that neither fashion photography nor the old styles of fashion illustration could do his designs justice. While the artists who created fashion plates for the Gazette each had distinct styles, their visions may not have realized without the support of designers such as Poiret.


Roses in the Night, George Barbier, evening gown by Worth, 1921, Accession no. 1997.067.036

These illustrations differ greatly from previous fashion plates, which are diagrams of style meant to show as much detail as possible. Instead, the Gazette's fashion plates are whimsical. In one, a woman is disguised as a fountain, no matter that her garment is probably physically impossible. In another, a man leans over from the left to kiss the hand of a woman while a red-faced man glares up from the right.

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The Gardens of Versailles, Georges Lepape, Costume by Paul Poiret in the mode of Louis XIV, 1913, Accession no. 1997.067.007

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The Jealous Man, Georges Lepape, evening gown by Paul Poiret, 1913