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"A Glimpse into Vassar’s (Secret) Closet," an exhibition of historic costumes, will be on view at the Palmer Gallery from May 21 - June 6, 2010.

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—The exhibition A Glimpse into Vassar’s (Secret) Closet, featuring a selection of historic costumes from the Vassar College Costume Collection (VCCC), will be on view in the James W. Palmer III Gallery from May 21 to June 6, 2010. Free and open to the public, the exhibition will open on Friday, May 21, with an opening reception from 2:00 to 4:00pm. Throughout the span of the exhibition, the Palmer Gallery will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00pm; Sunday from 11:00am to 2:00pm; as well as by appointment by calling (845) 437-5250.

Organized by costumer Holly Hummel, Arden Kirkland, and Candace Schuster of the Drama Department, the exhibition will offer the public a chance to see the results of a semester-long process of costume preservation. The VCCC received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Preservation Assistance Grant for Smaller Institutions to fund a series of Historic Costume Preservation workshops that informed the conservation process. This exhibition will honor Holly Hummel, senior drama lecturer and costume designer, who is retiring this year. She began organizing the collection shortly after she started working at Vassar in 1981.

The VCCC comprises a collection of over 500 examples of original historic clothing, dating from the 1850s to the present, which is maintained as a research collection within the costume shop of the Vassar Drama Department. This NEH grant allowed Vassar to bring three professionals from the field of costume history to lead workshops for 13 undergraduate students and Drama Department faculty members and administrators. Faculty from the History and Chemistry Departments also participated. The students, many interested in museum work, received independent study credit for the workshops. All participants gained hands-on experience with museum quality objects and learned best practices for proper handling of costume objects, assessment and documentation of their condition, museum cataloging procedures, and stabilization and mounting techniques to conserve and safely display the objects.

This progress with the physical collection has also allowed for growth of the VCCC digital collection and there are plans underway to make the on-campus database of the collection available online in the near future. Until then, photographs and other information about the collection are available at

About the Vassar College Costume Collection's NEH Historic Costume Preservation Workshops:

Each workshop provided the opportunity for students to work alongside specialists in their fields, learning the techniques related to preservation. Documentation of the continuing work on the collection is available at the website:

Workshop 1 – February 3:  Featured textile consultants Jonathan Scheer and Rebecca Chartier of J. Scheer and Co. of Rhinebeck and New York, who introduced participants to the proper handling, storage, and record keeping of textiles and historic costumes.

Workshop 2 – February 12: Featured costume historian Jessa Krick, who taught participants best practices for cataloging historic costumes. She discussed her cataloging work with the Costume Documentation Project for the Brooklyn Museum. Then, working with an object from Vassar’s collection, she modeled how to write a detailed catalogue entry. 

Workshop 3 - April 9 – 13: Led by Colleen Callahan, currently of Costume and Textile Specialists in VA and curator emeritus of costumes and textiles at the Valentine Richmond History Center in Richmond, Virginia, was based on successful workshops led by Callahan at Mount Holyoke in 2006 and Smith in 2008. Participants worked in teams with several objects from the VCCC and performed the necessary sewing to stabilize each object and properly mount it on a mannequin.

Students also had the opportunity to work with Stuart Belli and Edie Stout of the Chemistry Department, to learn how to use several instruments that help with the analysis of textile fibers.

Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, May 18, 2010