Interpreting History Through Costume: A CSA Western Region Symposium

I’m so excited to share with readers that the Costume Society of America’s Western Region has just released its registration flyer for the next regional symposium! To be held March 16-18 at the William S. Hart Ranch in Newhall, CA, “Interpreting History Through Costume” will include a wide range of activities and intellectually stimulating paper presentations.

The William S. Hart Ranch

For those unfamiliar, William S. Hart was a silent film star – primarily of cowboy movies and he became an avid collector of western art and artifacts (including costumes). His historic 1910 Ranch House will provide an exciting backdrop to the paper presentations.

This academic symposium includes presentations connecting fashion, history, theatre costume, national costume, gender, re-enactors, and much more (it also includes papers by my good friend and regular Worn Through contributor Brenna Barks, and former Smithsonian curator Shelly Foote). Highlights include:

  • A Comparison of Costumes Worn for Performances of Sheridan’s “The School for Scandal”
  • Fashioning Greek Identity-Representing “Greekness” in the 19th Century
  • Saris to Skirts: Negotiating National Identity through Costume
  • Collecting Japan: The Kimono and Textile Collection at the Clark Center for Japanese Culture
  • Dressing the Part: Mary Pickford’s Use of Costume

Additional activities include tours of the Hart Museum and a special costume display, a screening of the William S. Hart Film Tumbleweeds (1925), social time and opportunities to explore the Ranch (which is home to a heard of American Bison and other animals).

For complete details on the symposium and to register, download the flyer below.

Interpreting History Through Costume

March 16-18


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California Association of Museums conference (in Berkeley!)

The 2012 CAM conference, Museums Making It Happen, will take place February 15-17, 2012 at the Berkeley Doubletree Marina and will feature:
  • Programs led by colleagues from 60 California museums
  • Over 40 educational sessions and workshops focusing on administration, school and public programs, exhibitions, collections, and hot topics
  • Receptions, dinners, and other opportunities to dialogue
  • Maker Stations to tinker, be creative, and experience “making” in action (stations to be announced soon!)

Registration includes: entrance to the general session, concurrent sessions, the Lunchtime Learning Opportunities, and the exhibit hall; two continental breakfasts; the closing reception; and all exhibit hall breaks. All workshops, tours, evening events, and luncheons are additional. See 2012 Schedule for workshop, tour, luncheon, and evening event prices.

The Pre-Registration Deadline is Friday, Janaury 27, 2012.
Highlights (from my point of view) include:
California Indian Basketry Workshop at the Hearst’s Basket & Textile storage facility in Berkeley/Emeryville.

Emerging Professionals Participants will gain an understanding of the kinds of jobs available, trends in the field, and how to land that first paid position.

Play With Your Stuff: Collections and Social Media Join professionals from across the museum spectrum as we brainstorm ideas to promote your collections through social media.

Collections Management Roundtable These informal roundtable discussions will focus on specific topics pertaining to collections management and provide an opportunity to network with (and learn from) colleagues.
The New Magnes: The Vaults Revisited : After nearly a 50 year history as an independent museum, the Judah L. Magnes joined the Bancroft library at the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. In January 2012, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life reopens in a new facility in the Berkeley arts and culture district.
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Upcoming Exhibit “Dolls: Collections, Stories, and Tradition”

What: “Dolls: Collections, Stories, and Tradition” Exhibition

Where: African American Art & Culture Complex, Sargent Johnson Gallery, 1st Floor, San Francisco

When: Opening Reception: February 2, 2012, Time: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. (Exhibition on view Feb 2 — May 3)


The Sargent Johnson Gallery is pleased to present a doll exhibition that addresses a need to celebrate the diversity and beauty of African American and African people and their experience, manifested in dolls. This exhibition is a survey, with selected samples of dolls from several collections and doll makers who have as their focus Black Dolls. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are made of various materials and have different functions. They tell stories and are witness to history. The human form doll is among the first play toys a child, especially a female child has to identify with; thus, its aesthetic appearance has important implications for how a child perceives his or her self image.

Curated by Nashormeh Lindo, this exhibition serves as a response to the underrepresentation of positive images reflective of the black experience in the mainstream toy and doll industry and that have negative implications for young girls from the Western Addition—primarily those who are African American of a darker skin complexion. Come and learn about the fascinating world of African and African American dolls!

Click here for more details: African American Art & Culture Complex


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Noir City Film Festival starts tomorrow!

The 10th Annual Noir City Film Festival starts tomorrow in San Francisco, and Eddie Muller (the Czar of Noir) is pulling out all the stops. The festival runs January 20-29 at its traditional home, the Castro Theatre, and features films from the 1930s-1960s. For the uninitiated, the Film Noir Foundation is dedicated to “rescuing and restoring America’s Film Noir Heritage” and they put on this amazing festival every year. Here are a few highlights to keep in mind when buying your tickets:

  • Angie Dickinson in Person (for a live interview on her career): Saturday night, January 21
  • Laura (1944) with costumes by Bonnie Cashin: Sunday, January 22
  • A brand new 35mm print of 1949’s The Great Gatsby, starring Alan Ladd: Saturday night, January 28
  • A special 10th anniversary celebration, Everyone Comes to Eddie’s, a swanky, sexy, and slightly sinister soiree in which the Swedish American Hall is transformed into a vintage 1940s-era nightclub: Saturday night, January 28, 2012.
  • Noir City Tours of San Francisco: Sunday, Jan. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 25.
  • The original Maltese Falcon (1931) and a Dashiell Hammett Marathon: Sunday, Jan 29
  • More amazing vintage films that you’ve never seen and aren’t available anywhere else

Sorry to get gushy here kids, but I love this festival and its always got some great gems (not to mention some pretty amazing costumes!). Double-features abound so you really get your money’s worth. But if you can swing it, the Passport ($120) may be the way to go. More details (and a list of films) are available here:

Noir City X

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Money Money Money: Paid summer internship and CSA membership discounts/offers

The December 15 application deadline for the Jack Handford Summer Internship is quickly approaching (extended to February 1, 2012). This internship provides a $2,000 stipend for a student member of the Costume Society of America to complete an internship with an accredited museum or costume collection. The internship is open to undergraduate students about to commence their senior year and to graduate students.

Not a member? There are currently two special offers open to non-members who are interested in joining:

The Western region is currently offering a discount to students joining or renewing. Currently registered students can join CSA or RENEW their memberships by sending in a CSA Membership application form with proof of their current registration at an educational institution (copy of a Registration card I.D.) along with a check made out to CSA for $25 (Instead of the regular $45) For more details, click here.

In addition, and for a limited time, join now and receive a pre-selected, complimentary issue of CSA National Symposia Abstracts (valued at $16.00)! Offer ends 12/31/2011. Click here for details!

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Small Collection Highlight: Sacramento Valley Museum

I spent this past Friday and Saturday in the small town of Williams, CA. For those who don’t know it, it is on I-5, at the exit for Clear Lake. It’s primarily a farm town – but its history is long and well preserved in the former school house, now known as the Sacramento Valley Museum. My family’s roots go back to this particular town to at least 1920, but we were in the surrounding area as early as 1885.

The museum is a large two-story building and it contains all manner of historical every-day objects. It had a special Veterans Day memorial on view (which included example uniforms and paraphernalia from every major conflict). The permanent exhibitions areas include farming equipment, Williams High Alumni collections (including band uniforms), Masonic paraphernalia, as well as rooms organized by theme: kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, children’s rooms as well as businesses such as apothecary, general store and happily for me, the clothing boutique (all including objects from varying time periods). Shocking -and somehow comforting-to know just how long the same pharmacy (Fouch’s) has been in existence here.

Of particular note were the Model-T car, the dusters in the tack room (circa 1900), and some fine examples of corsets, dresses, and women’s accessories. Somehow, the things worn and used by real people (rather than the rich-and-famous) are always of greater interest to me. They seem more authentic, and by extension, more important to study and understand.

If you ever find yourself in the area, I’d encourage a visit – it’s a unique way to step back in time and smaller, lesser-known collections need your support to survive. Hope you enjoy these quick snap-shots:

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The Fabulous Tour (courtesy of CSA Western)

Back in 2009, I interviewed curator Christina Johnson of the FIDM Museum for Wornthrough – and she gave readers a brief glimpse the Fabulous exhibition (that was then in the planning stages).

Alexander McQueen "Peacock Dress" Fall/Winter 2008-09 (Via Nick Verrereos)

Two years later, and now as as Programs Chair for the Western Region of Costume Society, I’m thrilled to say that we have a very special behind-the-scenes tour to offer members and non-members alike.

To be held November 19, FABULOUS! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000-2010, the exhibition includes 175 donated and purchased garments and accessories worn by women, men, and children spanning 1800 to 2010.

FABULOUS! highlights include: a luxurious embroidered court suit worn by composer Johann Hummel, a Redfern court gown with regulation eleven-foot-long train (see above), and a museum-commissioned lace peacock motif Alexander McQueen couture gown (pictured at left), among others.

The CSA special program includes both illustrated presentations by curatorial staff as well as a tour. Highlights include an inside look at the Fabulous! exhibition planning process by curator Kevin Jones and a close-up analysis of the Madame Olympe gown by Danielle Killam, assistant registrar.

Happily, there is still space for those interested. Simply download the flyer and mail it in with your check (The deadline for registering is November 11) . I hope I’ll see you there!

Download the registration form and details

Member(s) $20
Student Member(s) $10
Non-Member(s) $25
Student Non-Member(s) $15

Wedding Gown worn by Elisabeth of Wied, Queen Consort of Romania, in 1869 (via Nick Verreros)
Queen Victoria of Great Britain's Evening Gown, black silk faille and crepe, from 1897 (via Nick Verreros)
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