....and one at the V & A, London

posted on 05 Aug 2015 14:02 by Elena Pinto Simon
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Meanwhile, in the heart of London, Bard Graduate Center MA student Rebecca Sadtler spent much of her summer interning at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Rebecca sent along this summary:

"From Animal Products to Christian Dior: Opening the Drawer on a V&A/BGC Placement

This summer, I completed a six-week placement at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where I gained valuable insights into the curatorial practices and collections management procedures of their comprehensive Fashion and Textiles Collection. Under the expert guidance of Dr. Bill Sherman from my “home base” in the Research Department, I divided my time between the museum at South Kensington and the Clothworkers’ Study Centre located in Blythe House assisting curators and collections managers with long-term projects and daily, routine tasks. My experiences expanded my practical skill set and encouraged me to push the traditional disciplinary boundaries of my chosen academic focus on fashion history and theory. I was privileged to work with a multitude of objects ranging from obscure paper records to well-known hallmarks of twentieth-century fashion design. These encompassed everything from original register files documenting rather interesting and strange nineteenth-century acquisitions of animal waste products to an infamous and beautiful “Bar” suit designed by Christian Dior in 1947, which helped define the highly influential “New Look.”


I also spent time working on a digitization project that involved uploading just over 1,500 photographs of textiles classified as “animal products” during the late-nineteenth century to the museum’s internal database. Through this process, the images were also published to the V&A website’s Search the Collections feature for the first time. While it required a great deal of patience and careful attention to detail, it also enabled me to collaborate with colleagues across two museum departments and institutions providing an opportunity to engage what I have learned about textiles at the BGC and explore a dynamic intersection between fashion, science and museum studies that I had not previously considered. Meetings and conversations with fashion curators Edwina Ehrman and Jenny Lister brought the images on my computer screen to life. From their work, I learned that around eight-hundred objects of the original Animal Products Collection, which the museum acquired as a result of the Great Exhibition in 1851, have survived at the V&A and today form an important part of the museum’s Textiles and Fashion Collection. My project culminated in a research trip to the V&A’s Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, where the Animal Products Collection was displayed from 1872 following the location’s opening.


It was fulfilling to see how small tasks such as uploading photographs, paging through register files, and retrieving objects for research appointments from the storage drawers of Blythe House fit into much larger projects, like Edwina’s upcoming exhibition on the subject of fashion and nature, aimed toward furthering our understanding of the V&A’s vast and varied collections. I am truly grateful the BGC for providing such a worthwhile opportunity and am likewise thankful to everyone I worked with at the V&A, especially Dr. Bill Sherman, for being so supportive, welcoming, and encouraging of my academic interests and continued professional development."

Image one: A study day I assisted with during my placement titled “The Science and Culture of Feathers in Fashion” which was organized by V&A curator Edwina Ehrman in collaboration with the Natural History Museum.

Image two:The view from my desk at the V&A.