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Building a Bird(man) House

This post was written by Jessica Barner, one of the IMA’s Conservation Technicians, who works with the Textiles and Objects Conservators. As the textile department prepares for the upcoming exhibition, Material World, stay tuned for more posts on the collection and exhibition organization. Enjoy!

After reading a previous blog about museum storage, we thought it would be fun to share the fine work of our Packing & Storage Department. John Ross, one of our Storage & Packing Technicians, created a beautifully-crafted housing to store the headdress of an African dancer’s costume. This costume is of the Poro Society – a society mainly found on the Western coast of Africa. The term Wenilegei means “bird man,” so I guess one could say that John contained the “bird man!”

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And the Winner is….

About 900 people visited the IMA last Friday night to attend two showings of Project IMA: Fashion Unbound. Of the 40 designers that traveled from all over the country, a local designer and student, Jeremy B. Hunt won the best of show prize for his crinoline inspired ensemble made entirely of packing material and card board. The Elizabeth Kraft-Meek fashion design award of $500 was awarded to Jeremy based on the decisions of three talented judges, Jacqueline Buckingham Anderson, CEO of Style Meets Life, David Hochoy, Artistic Director for Dance Kaleidoscope and Lisa Silhanek, CEO of Silhanek Ltd., and the former director of IMG Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.

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Researching the American Textile Collection

A few months ago I wrote a post on data entry and clean-up. While to some, it may first seem uneventful- the glow of the computer screen, clacking keys, cream colored files.

It is really quite exciting; allow me to share just a few reasons why.

While researching the American textile collection, I delighted in studying our 1930s and 1940s textiles, a few of which were designed and produced as part of the Milwaukee WPA Handicraft project. This was a highly successful WPA venture that provided work for under-skilled people. The project engaged workers in a multitude of handcraft practices, instructed by designer- technicians drawn from graduates of the Milwaukee State Teachers College art department.

In the IMA’s collection, we have two examples of textiles that were produced as the result of this highly successful project; both designed by Florence Kawa.

The Reapers, Florence Kawa (39.41)

The Workers, Florence Kawa (39.42)

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Strike A Pose

So here we are, in the midst of Fashion Week (Have you been paying attention?) and even though we in Indianapolis are safely out of the way of all the hustle and bustle of tent life in New York, we are in the midst of preparing for a little hustle of our own.

Marc by Marc Jacobs Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

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So… What exactly do you do?

I love that question. Even my beloved mother, who offered unwavering support through graduate school couldn’t always quite describe what I do. In fact it became a form of entertainment as I listened to her try.

Depending on her mood, the explanation would range from “she does something with museums” to “something with textiles”. Fortunately, she has it down now. But in her defense, so much of what is involved in a curatorial position goes on behind the scenes; it is easy to understand why one might not exactly know.

Here’s a glimpse behind the curtain:

Data Clean-up: Every department is different and therefore what might be deemed as daily activity may also vary. One of the tasks I’ve taken on is updating our internal database system, Emu.

We house roughly 7,000 objects in the Textile and Fashion Arts collection and as you might guess, it is a long, but rewarding process to update all of the records. To keep us organized, Niloo Paydar, Curator of Textiles and Fashion Arts keeps about 50 or so binders in her office divided into categories based on different things such as techniques, cultures or artists.

Each time I dive into the binders, I embark on a hunt for information, kind of like a detective. Every piece in our collection is represented by a record, containing annotations and references, many of which were made at the time of acquisition or amended as the result of a visiting scholar.  These are my clues.

My course of action ranges from combing obituaries for donor information, referencing exhibition catalogues, researching publications on artists or movements, to investigating specific terms such as aralac which, by the way, is a term for a synthetic fiber made from the milk protein casein.

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About Petra

Job Title: Curatorial Associate of Textile and Fashion Arts/European Painting and Sculpture to 1945

Interests: Culture, Fashion, Photography, Vinyl (music in general) Teaching, Thrifting, Plants (indoor and out)

Music: Ray Charles, The Knife, Budos Band, Jarvis Cocker, Billie, Sarah and Ella, Fruit Bats, Lionel, Wes and Charlie

Food:Greens, Wine, Chocolate & Cheese- the stinkier the better!

Pets:2 cats (mother and daughter) Bunners aka Mamas and Neko aka Kitten.

Something Extra: I enjoy the unexpected.

Petra has written 15 articles for us.