Until April, our feature exhibit is called The Vintage Catwalk, looking at interesting fashions through the years. Featured in this post are artefacts in our collection (that may or may not be on exhibition), and with St. Patrick’s Day later this month, the theme of the artefacts is green!
Be sure to visit the exhibition before it closes!
Note, the skirt appears to have repairs/changes through the years, especially notable when you look at the bottom hem.
Green hats, including one from Scouts Canada.
From inside our 2017 feature exhibit Celebrating 60. Our earliest donation included this green suit, owned by Premier Gordon Conant.
Finally, our most notorious green textile – the arsenic green dress. This dress, part of the collection of our exhibit partner The Costume People, was dyed with copper arsenite; the dye often proved fatal for the wearers and especially for the women who worked directly applying the dyes in the manufacture process. Our summer student Lauren shared the story of these dresses in a post last summer.
Mounting a historic dress can be challenging, even for the experienced dress curators and conservators. Inappropriate handling is one of the main causes of damage to museum objects. Handling should be kept to a minimum; the risk of damage occurring can be reduced by good preparation before, during, and after the historic dress has been mounted.
The condition and structure of the historic dress should be carefully analyzed to determine if it has any structural weaknesses, previous damage, or fragile surfaces. The condition of the dress will inform how to safely display the piece, or even if it can be displayed at all. Ensure to consider its stability against environmental conditions and mounts while on exhibit.
A properly dressed mannequin is important for both the visitor experience at a museum and the artefact/garment itself. The correct style of mount should be chosen, whether it is two dimensional or three dimensional. For our display at the Oshawa Museum, we have chosen three dimensional mounts using mannequins in various shapes and sizes to create the correct silhouette. It is important to remember when working with mannequins and dressing historic garments that it is not the same as dressing a store mannequin. At a store, the mannequin is automatically the correct silhouette and the garment is new and can withstand the stress and handling.
When mounting historic garments, a mannequin should be chosen that is significantly smaller than the garment. First, carefully measure the garment and ensure to take the time to measure properly. Measure the entire bodice of a garment, not just straight across the chest. Carefully measure all the way across the inside of the garment, following the curve of any space created for the bust.
Once the proper mannequin has been selected, it is time to start building out the mannequin so the historic dress is well supported throughout. Supplies to build out mannequins include white cotton sheet, pantyhose, quilt batting, cotton twill tape, flexible fabric measuring tape, scissors, and straight pins. A well-dressed mannequin should go unnoticed by visitors. This means the visitor will focus on the historic dress itself and not on how it is displayed. A poorly mounted mannequin can distract the visitor from focusing on the garment and its story.
The final stage is to ensure the proper silhouette is created. This primarily comes into consideration with women’s and children’s clothing during certain periods. Through the addition of appropriate under structure, the garment will be fully supported. This is completed through the use of petticoats (antique or reproduction) from different time periods, for example, small pillows for bustles, and fabric tulle or netting can be used to create a 1950s crinoline or a 1830s full skirt.
Be sure to watch our social media channels for a glimpse behind the scenes in the upcoming weeks as we prepare for our upcoming exhibition, The Vintage Catwalk!
Pests are a common problem in museums and they can cause a lot of damage to the museum buildings and the collection. If Pokémon were real life pests, these are the damages they could inflict on the museum!
Insects can cause the most damage as they are small but have big appetites! Weedles, Caterpies, and Butterfrees can eat through materials such as textiles. This would have a devastating effect on any quilts, clothing, or linens. When these pests are present there will be tiny holes in the affected textiles. Insects like Beedrills can also cause damage to the wood within a building by barreling through it. This type of destruction can make the structure of the building weaker. Venonats and Venomoths can cause devastation to textiles as well because they will chew through them. Kakuna and Metapod can also leave casings within a collection, while these are not necessarily damaging, they are a sign of insects which is never good. Insects are small and they can go unnoticed in a collection until one day a quilt is unrolled and there are holes, casings, or other damage. By then it could be too late.
Rattata and mouse-like Pokémon, like Pikachu, have very good senses of smell and taste. They also have ways of easily gaining entry to the building if they were to smell something that they wanted! They chew through organic material like leather and glues. Many objects in the collection are made from organic materials (especially hair wreaths) so it is important to prevent Pokémon like these from getting into the building.
Zubats can live in collection areas because they are dark during the day when bats are asleep. Collection areas are usually kept very cool to protect the objects. This sort of environment would be perfect for a Zubat to nest. The Zubat’s droppings could cause damage to a object if it were to land on one, because Zubats fly around their droppings can affect more objects.
Pokémon can cause damage and destruction to a museum collection so it’s important to keep them in their pokeballs! It is always best to prevent an infestation before it happens, so you gotta catch ‘em all!
With our newest exhibition, Common Threads: Stories from our Quilt Collection, opening soon, we thought it would be timely to follow up with one last quilting blog post. One challenge with digitizing and cataloging the quilts was identifying the patterns. The repeating patterns on our quilts are beautiful, and every square is unique; however, each one has an underlying pattern, some common with quilts, while some were more unique.
While digitizing the quilt collection, we kept our own reference to the different patterns which appeared in our quilts, and we thought we would share them here.
To see more quilts, and to learn the stories behind them, be sure to visit the Oshawa Museum and take in our newest exhibit, Common Threads: Stories from our Quilt Collection, opening in June.
The final stories I want to tell through quilts are the stories of the Henry’s quilts. The Henry’s are one of the families that are closely associated with the Oshawa Community Museum. Their family home (built c. 1840) is still standing in Oshawa’s Lakeview Park, and it is one of the three historic houses that make up our museum.
The Henry Family lived in this home from the time it was built through to the turn of the century. The family’s patriarch was Thomas Henry, a farmer, minister in the Christian Church, and a harbourmaster for a number of years. With his first wife Elizabeth, he had a daughter (Nancy, who died in infancy), and five sons: John, William, George, Thomas Simon, and Ebenezer. After Elizabeth died, Thomas married Lurenda Abbey, and they had a total of 10 children: Eliza, James, Phineas, Albert, Elizabeth, Joseph, Jesse, Clarissa, William, and Lurenda Jane (Jennie).
The Oshawa Community Museum has many cherished artifacts which once belonged to members of the Henry Family; some are on display in Henry House while others are in storage for safe keeping. Some of these artifacts are textiles and quilts.
This Victorian crazy quilt was once owned by Mary Myrtle Ellis (nee Henry). Mary’s father was Albert Henry, and her mother was Harriett Guy. Harriett died while Myrtle was young, and for a time in the 1870s, Myrtle and her sister Alberta lived in the family’s stone house with their grandparents Thomas and Lurenda. Many of the patches on this beautiful quilt feature floral patterns. On the left side of the quilt, second patchwork square from the top, there is a blue patch which has been embroidered with the words “Flora 1889.” The middle right, top square has a patch which features the wording: “Tammany Hall, Toronto, Granite Island Camp, Thousand Islands – 1887”. This quilt was on display for some time in the Henry House bedroom, however, the bottom of the quilt is now rather frayed and delicate, and it is now safely in storage.
This quilt has the same provenance, belonging to Myrtle Henry. In one corner, embroidered in red, are the initials MH.
While not a ‘quilt,’ there is an interesting story behind this blanket. As the story goes, the wool for this blanket was prepared by Lurenda Henry herself. The wool was then sent away and was professionally woven into this blanket. There is a blue piece of fabric which has been attached to the top to allow the blanket to hang.
For more stories from the Oshawa Community Museum’s quilt collection, be sure to check out our newest exhibit for the summer: Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt Collection! Opening in June 2013!