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One epic costume collection

March 19, 2018

This Ohio State museum is an invaluable resource for history and today

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Ida Abdalkhani

In Campbell Hall, you can take a trip through time, and the extensive collection of clothing and textiles will be your time machine.

The Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, part of the College of Education and Human Ecology, has 12,000 artifacts for men, women and children, including national costumes from around the world. They span from the mid-18th century to today’s current fashions.

But the museum does so much more than preserve the past. Through classroom use, exhibitions, workshops and its website, it enables viewers to enhance their understanding of the technical aspects, aesthetics and social meaning of apparel and textiles.

“All museums have education as part of their mission, so being a museum located within a university reinforces that even more for us,” said Gayle Strege, the museum’s curator. “The artifacts held in museums are not useless relics but a record of humanity’s collective past — both historically and culturally.”

From a student’s perspective, the collection is invaluable. Emily Glassmeyer uses the resource for her history and women's, gender and sexuality studies majors. “It’s one of the most accessible ways to get hands-on with women’s history, which is part of my thematic concentration,” she explained.

“Looking at and handling artifacts people actually lived in, used and commissioned gives me a thrill. And it’s fascinating to see how women expressed themselves throughout history.”

For fashion retail studies majors, the collection is awe inspiring. It provides a record of the history of clothing and the fashion industry while nurturing innovation and creativity in design and professional practice in the global marketplace.

But you don’t have to be studying fashion to find the museum valuable. It’s also used by students in other disciplines, such as history, women’s history, gender studies, art history, art, poetry, introduction to the humanities, French culture and more.

“Researchers can set up an appointment with us to research designers, a particular decade or type of garment, etc.,” Strege said. “We have both couture fashion examples and more everyday types of fashion. We try to collect the history of each piece, such as its wearer, when s/he wore it or for what occasion.”

According to Strege, having all this extra info makes this collection more than just a display of changing fashion. It’s an invaluable display of material culture and social history over time.