Curating Fashion In and Out of the Ethnographic

LECTURE | 30 January | 13:30 - 16:30 | Tropenmuseum

Rita Bolland Fellows Research presentation and Panel discussion.

What do the disciplines of fashion studies and anthropology have to offer for rethinking collections of dress or textiles within the ethnographic museum? What possibilities or problems does the category of fashion present for objects acquired within the framework of the ethnographic? What does it mean to curate fashion within the ethnographic museum? In Curating Fashion In and Out of the Ethnographic, scholars and curators will address these questions taking the collection of the National Museum of World Cultures as starting point. Sophie Berrebi and Wessie Ling will present their research on NMVW collections, which will be followed by a panel discussion with international experts.

Not from a fashion perspective

Since 2015, the ethnographic museum NMVW in the Netherlands has a curator for popular culture and fashion. For the museum, reinterpretation of its clothing collections from across the world through fashion theory and practice, offers new insights into its originally colonially assembled collections. Ethnographic clothing has always been categorized within these profoundly European institutions as dress or clothing outside of the fashion realm that was defined in the west. Dress items were described as such and presented as ethnographic object, as curio for the onlooker to admire, not to be seen as part of a process of social and personal identity within the culture it originated. The maker or designer is hardly ever known, and the objects were never studied from a fashion perspective.

On the other hand, dress collections and exhibitions in other kinds of institutions such as decorative or fine arts museums, are always approached from a more aesthetic angle. The maker is deemed most important, where social roles and function of the object are secondary.

Topics for discussion include: how fashion in the ethnographic museum does or should or could go beyond ethnographic approaches, and to what extent fashion exhibition in decorative arts or fine arts museums may, should or do include an ethnographic dimension or approach. Beyond this is the question of what is the role of fashion exhibitions, and how do they deal with sociological, historical or indeed ethnographic dimensions in the museum. And of course ultimately the issue is what fashion and ethnography have to do with one another….

Image: Riverboat with Kru-men as rowers, Angola, photograph by J.A. (José Augusto) da Cunha Moraes, ca 1870. RV-A274-40, part of the 1883 donation by J.W. Regeer.

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30 januari 2019
13:30 - 17:30