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Vicki Cassman discusses the use of technology in making the "Common Threads" exhibition available to a wider audience.

Technology in the Classroom

'Common Threads' exhibition connects to community in new ways with technology


(Editor's note: This article is part of a continuing series by University IT on innovative use of technology in campus classrooms.)

7:47 a.m., May 7, 2013--Ever heard of a paper dress? In the 1960s, Scott Paper Co. sold vibrantly colored, disposable mini dresses made of paper that could withstand several uses. The short-lived fad was just one essence of women’s fashion on display at the University of Delaware Old College West Gallery’s exhibition, “Common Threads,” which is connecting to the community in new digital ways. Watch the video interview.

The exhibition -- presented by the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies in conjunction with the Department of Art Conservation and the University Museums -- features “A History of Fashion through a Woman’s Eyes,” and displays garments spanning the 20th century.

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Many of the garments, however, were damaged and in need of conservation. Vicki Cassman, associate professor in the Department of Art Conservation, developed the idea to document the conservation process and historical background of each item through podcasts. 

“As one of a few art conservation programs in the country, I thought it would be a great way to bring the history of these garments to life and demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of our program,” Cassman explained.  

In addition to museum and art conservation students and staff, undergraduate and graduate students such as Beth MacKenzie, senior in visual communications, and Martha Hall, master’s candidate in fashion and apparel studies, were vital to giving the exhibition a digital life.

For MacKenzie, pulling “Common Threads” together started as a summer internship and extended into the fall semester, becoming the biggest project she ever encountered. 

“I was responsible for editing the ‘Common Threads’ website, designing the timeline, brochures, posters, advertisements and editing most of the videos,” MacKenzie said. She is also credited with branding the exhibition. Based off of the exhibition’s keynote piece, a 1958 prom dress made of red cotton velvet and nylon tulle, the graphic details a single red ribbon flowing into the shape of a dress. 

Hall’s expertise in garment architecture and history made her the perfect person to craft all written content for “Common Threads,” as seen in the brochures, online and soon to be immortalized in a catalogue of the exhibition, using iBooks Author — a digital publishing tool for iPad touch books. 

Other digital efforts included implementing social media tools such as, the Department of Art Conservation’s Facebook page and YouTube along with a QR code on the museum wall for instant mobile access to the exhibition’s online content. 

Ivan Henderson, curator of education for University Museums, emphasized the podcasts for use as a personal guide, which can be accessed by capturing the QR code on a smartphone from the exhibition’s wall.

About ‘Common Threads’

The antique clothing and accessories encompass the early 1900s through the 1990s, celebrating “A History of Fashion through a Woman’s Eyes.” 

Janet Broske, collections manager for University Museums, describes the transition of women’s fashion and liberation represented by the range of garments, “In the early 1900s, the dress was like a silhouette, actually enslaving the woman within the fashion. By the 1990s, we find that women are allowed to choose what they want on the fashion spectrum, in a way that is self-expressive.”

The “Common Threads” exhibition in Old College West Gallery was curated by Vicki Cassman, Belinda Orzada and Dilia López-Gydosh, with support in part by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center. The items were drawn from the University’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection within the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies. The exhibition will be on display through June 28.

Article by Sarah E. Meadows


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