I often marvel at the variety of ways the public uses our collections. I thought it would be fun to give a run-down of some of the ways individuals have used, or could use, our vast collections here at CHS.
One of the most obvious ways to use our collection is to illustrate a story or event for educational purposes. This is a common way that CHS, and other institutions through object loans, use our collection to create and enhance exhibitions. For instance, our Making Connecticut exhibition has over 400 objects in a single exhibition allowing for a wide variety of discussions and discoveries around the objects.
Our collections are also used in other educational ways. For instance, small groups may come in for specific study days based around collections. One instance was the Quilt Study Day we had in March of this year. Lynne Bassett walked us all through dating quilts, identifying print techniques, and finding relationships between period costumes and quilts.
CHS has also hosted a variety of individual groups, like the North Bennett Street School in Boston that teaches the craftsmanship of furniture making. The students come and study original pieces of furniture in order to learn techniques, styles, and the history of furniture making.
Along the same lines of the North Bennett Street School’s visits, we also have individuals who come in and draft patterns from our collection (furniture, costumes, knitted mittens, etc.). Sometimes these pattern drafts are used to make commercial patterns for companies like Past Patterns (they have a corset pattern based on one of our objects!). Other times, the individuals use the patterns they draft for their own pleasure. A group of dancers who perform Regency-style dances visit us to copy patterns from extant garments so they can create dresses to wear that are similar in style and decoration to the originals.
In 2012, CHS hosted an exhibition of works by the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. The exhibit highlighted a few works directly inspired by pieces in our collection, like the below chairs. The side chair on the left was created in 2009 by John Rexroad, while the chair on the right was made by Eliphalet Chapin in 1781.
Teachers and students also use our collections. A few weeks ago a group of high school fashion design students came and studied historical construction and the change of fashion design over a 100 year period. Genealogists can even use our three-dimensional collections! We have a vast number of family registers that were embroidered by young needleworkers that document births, deaths, and marriages in their own families.
There are so many ways to use our collections, from the traditional–reading diaries, letters, and other historical manuscripts–to the less-thought of purposes like drafting patterns, and researching fabric documents.
I hope you have discovered a new way to use our collections, and come visit us soon to see what you can discover!!!!