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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Straw: From Field to Fashion


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Straw has been woven and plaited into head coverings since ancient times. This fiber, which is prepared through harvesting, boiling, drying, sorting, and splitting, combines lightness and strength which enables it to be shaped into hats with wide brims that provide shade without significant weight. Straw is also breathable, making it ideal for warmer climates and outdoor work. In fashion, however, the functionality of straw has often been secondary to the style of the times.

The men's boater, said by some to have been popularized by Gondoliers in Italy, became a prevalent item of western fashion in the latter half of the 19th century. Originally worn by men, this style of hat was adopted by women, and sometimes augmented with furbelows (showy trimming, top right). The fiber used for boaters was often quite toothy when compared to the straw used in hats like that of the silk flowered hat pictured above. This plaited and coiled hat has a density that gives it both pliability and visual movement. The small and essentially brimless bleached white straw hat with brown velvet trim (bottom left) is made from a weave so fine that it looks somewhat unlike preconceptions we might have about straw hats. And, of course, the crisp and clean look of straw is maximized with styles that are derivative of the sailor hat (bottom middle). Straw can also be dyed, creating quite a formal aesthetic (bottom right).


Top left: Straw hat with silk and velvet flora, 1930-1939, Alvin New York, Gift of Irma Bullard
Top right: Straw boater with artificial fruit, 1957-1959, Peck & Peck, Gift of Joanne Pirsch
Bottom left: Straw hat with velvet trim, 1944-1946, John Frederics, Gift of Gloria Cherne Hogan
Bottom middle: Straw hat with white ribbon, 1960-1969, Sally Victor, Gift of Muriel Humphrey Brown
Bottom right: Black straw hat, 1960-1969, Mr. John, Gift of Marjorie Rooks

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Mining the Collection: Showing Apparel for History of Costume

By Caitlin Cohn, Collections Assistant at GMD, and graduate student in the College of Design pursuing a PhD in Dress, History, and Culture


GMD1967002005-8-jpg634032130648970351.jpgThis spring, one of the main projects I worked on was showing objects for History of Costume, taught by Dr. Marilyn DeLong. The course covered western dress from 1750 to the present. I researched the period, compared it to our collection and pulled objects that exemplified the era. I also researched many of the garments in order to provide more information about the apparel and the time period when presenting them in class.

Given the size of GMD's apparel collection, which contains over 16,000 objects, one of the challenges was deciding which examples would be most beneficial for the students to see. Ideally, I wanted to show typical styles from the era, so that students would learn to distinguish between time periods when looking at actual objects. However, I also wanted to show a range of styles to make it clear that there was variation even among apparel made around the same time.

GMD's collection, like many museum collections, mostly includes examples of GMD1978012003-1-jpg634461433643290285.jpgdress worn by the affluent and also represents the garments that people did not wear through and chose to save. Thus, when I showed an elaborate silk dress from the 1880s, I was not demonstrating what your average woman wore. Rather, I was showing an example of what a wealthy woman could have afforded, which would have represented the style and silhouette that other women may also have imitated.

Looking at collection objects gives students a chance to see examples of what people wore in the past. Students can see details regarding materials and construction that are not visible when looking at images of garments. Paired with example showing the silhouette of the time, students gain a better understanding of what people wore and how they wore it, as well as how styles evolved.

Shoes, c. 1790, Gift of Mr. Robert Jaffee and Mr. Arthur JaffeeDress, Jean Patou, silk satin, 1928-1929, Gift of Curtiss ObergDress, silk, net, 1928-1930, Gift of Dorothy Duga; Dress, 1883-1889, silk brocade, Gift of Mrs. H. Sears Thomson

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

MN Museum Traveler!

passport.jpgPick up your MN Museum Traveler passport, and enter to win awesome prizes!

Step 1: Get your free passport at GMD or any of the other participating museums:

American Museum of Asmat Art at University of St. Thomas
American Swedish Institute
Bakken Library and Museum
Bell Museum of Natural History
Como Park Zoo
Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakota Life
Mill City Museum
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Minnesota Children's Museum
Minnesota History Museum
The Museum of Russian Art
Science Museum of Minnesota
Walker Art Center
Weisman Art Museum

Step 2:
Get a certified traveler stamp from now until September 3, 2012 at 5 of the participating museums

Step 3: upload a photo of you and your MN Museum Traveler passport to, which will enter you to win awesome prizes.

The first 20 prizes are a three-pack of family museum memberships, and other prizes include (but are not limited to) a stay at the Grand Hotel Minneapolis, and Guthrie Theater tickets!

Stop by GMD today to learn more and start your journey!

Collaboration through AAM

delta_design.jpgThis year Minnesota had the pleasure of hosting the annual American Association of Museums (AAM) conference. Here at GMD we participated in the conference not only by attending, but by volunteering and participating in group activities. One of the main benefits of hosting the AAM conference was the collaborative connection that developed between museums in order to showcase the entire community.

Lin Nelson-Mayson, GMD director and chair of the Minnesota Association of Museums, noted that Minnesota's museums each tell the stories of their communities. The collaboration white_gloves1.jpgrequired for the AAM conference reveals museums' commitment to partnerships that also benefits the public. The conference and the launch of Minnesota Museums Month are both evidence of an inclusiveness that facilitated conference attendees and other visitors' successful experience with museums.

It is a long standing tradition of the AAM Registrar's Committee to assist with a collections project in the city where the conference is held. This year, GMD was one of three museums whose registrars assisted with various projects in the Twin Cities Metro area. GMD's registrar, Eunice Haugen, worked with five registrars in town for AAM to re-house fans on muslin covered acid free boards. By placing delicate fans on boards, the objects themselves are no longer directly handled when viewed for study.

GMD's collections assistant, Caitlin Cohn, volunteered in AAM's Hospitality Lounge. Hospitality Lounge volunteers helped attendees from out of town find their way around downtown Minneapolis as well as to museum sites around the cities. Jean McElvain, GMD's assistant curator, also volunteered at AAM. Assisting at the registration desk and as a session monitor provided many insights into the broader museum community.

It is clear from our collective experiences that the AAM conference was not just about learning, but about participating, collaborating, and supporting local museums and their staff. We look forward to continuing these activities in future conferences!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Imaginary Interview

GMD1984014031-5-jpg634032132760406646.jpgThe exhibition Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 10th and runs through August 19th. The exhibition will compare the works of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, showcasing Schiaparelli's designs between the 1920s and 1950s and Prada's designs beginning in the late 1980s. The Met has borrowed Schiaparelli's bark dress from GMD to show in the exhibition.

The exhibition's title is an allusion to a popular column, "Impossible Interviews", which was published in Vanity Fair during the 1930s. The column featured imaginary interviews between improbable individuals, including Joseph Stalin and Elsa Schiaparelli. The curators, Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda realized that Schiaparelli most likely would have been unwilling to share an exhibition with another designer, and Prada probably would refuse to be compared to one of her contemporaries.

Schiaparelli was born in 1890 in Rome and Prada was born in 1949 in Milan. Despite temporal distance, their lives have many parallels. Both were raised in wealthy, strictly Catholic families and both had GMD1984014031-7-jpg634032132892598376.jpgfathers who were university professors. Neither ever learned to sew, but are two of the twentieth century's most important designers. Schiaparelli and Prada both are known for avant-garde designs and refusing to capitulate to common ideas about what constitutes beauty.

Check out the exhibition, or search for more examples of Schiaparelli's designs on GMD's collection database.

Learn more about Impossible Conversations: Read Radical Chic from The New Yorker, and Vogue article Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: Talk to Her.

UPDATE: Check out this photo of this piece in the exhibition

By Caitlin Cohn, Collections Assistant at GMD, and graduate student in the College of Design pursuing a PhD in Dress, History, and Culture


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

MN Museums Month: A Special Offering

MNMuseumsMonth_rgb.jpgMay is here, which means we are celebrating the first annual Minnesota Museums Month! In honor of MN Museums Month, GMD is giving away our haute new lanyard to new members that sign up during the month of May. Minnesota Museums Month is a collaboration among museums of all types--historical, art, science, military, zoo, and more--to raise awareness of the importance of museums across the state in contributing to and sustaining community.

Snap a photo during your MN museum visit and send your favorites to for all to enjoy. MN Museums Month will share them every Friday on their facebookand twitter pages.

Mark your calendar to watch TPT's Museums Creating Community lanyard.jpgon your MN channel, Sunday May 6, 8pm. This documentary about MN museums features GMD Director, Lin Nelson-Mayson, who was interviewed as a representative of the MN Association of Museums. The diverse museums of Minnesota allow us to remember our past while they reflect our present, and they provide unique experiences that inspire us to think beyond our own communities.

MN has 600 museums! Search the MN museum list to plan your visit; rediscover your favorites, and find a MN museum that is new to you!

Museums Creating Community is a Minnesota Partnership Production - a TPT_logo.png
co-production of the Minnesota Association of Museums, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Hennepin History Museum, and Twin Cities Public Television.
Funding has been provided by an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund Partnership Grant through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.

By Jenny Parker: Goldstein Museum of Design Graduate Assistant, MFA candidate in Graphic Design and Museum Studies