I’ve been working in museums with historic dress for about two and a half years now. I was trained as an archivist before this, and I’ve had several great colleagues and supervisors to guide my way, but I’ve had to learn a lot of things in a “as you go” manner. While there is no overstating the value of experience, I’ve found that sometimes I really just want a little reassurance that I’m doing things the “right” way.
That reassurance, is exactly what I got when reading Karen DePauw’s recently released book, The Care and Display of Historic Clothing. This book covers topics related to the care and exhibition of garments such as dating, storing, and mounting garments. It’s a how-to manual, with the focus being practical rather than theoretical.
I found myself making notes furiously in the early chapters that touch on storage and cataloging because they related to a project I’m about to start. However, I can see myself going back to reference most of the other chapters later, as different question come up in my work. Some of the chapters on dating and style changes I ended up skimming, but I could see that without them the book wouldn’t have really been the complete guide it was intended to be.
So, who should read this book? If you work with historic clothing collections it should definitely be in your library. You may not read it cover to cover, and a lot of it will be stuff you already know, but it is a great reference to have on hand. You may even want to keep a copy on hand just to lend to new interns. If you have a few pieces of historic or vintage clothing in your own private collection, it would also be worth a read.