Masquers Historical Costume Collection on Display

Friday, May 13, 2005

A portion of the Masquers Historical Costume Collection is on view in the Brooks Gallery of Wallman Hall on the Fairmont State campus through May 19.

The exhibition is held in conjunction with National Historic Preservation Week. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, call Curator Marian J. Hollinger at (304) 367-4300.

During the spring semester of 1998, in anticipation of the Fairmont State Masquers 75th Anniversary celebration, Jo Ann Lough, speech and theatre professor emerita, and Dr. Beth Thorne Newcome, professor of historic costume and fashion design, began a collaborative project to retire the historical clothing and related artifacts (1850-1950) from the Masquers theatrical wardrobe. This led to the establishment of the Masquers Historical Costume Collection.

The purpose of this project is to preserve this unique collection of vintage apparel and accessories that represent contributions made to the university from the communities in and around Marion County and North Central West Virginia and to make the collection available to FS students, faculty and to the public at large for research and historical record, pattern drafting, material culture exploration, visual history study and costume reproduction.

Assisted by students from Newcome's course in History of Contemporary Fashion, this beginning activity culminated in April 1998, with the first public exhibition of 36 garments from the collection. The exhibition was well received by the institution and community and stimulated an awareness of and enthusiasm for this and similar collections of academic value.

Polly Willman, Historic Costumer Consultant, Preservation Services for Costumes and Textiles, Arlington, Va., presented a lecture in 1999 called "Conserving Historic Costume: A Key to our Identity" and helped to screen and provide an assessment of the approximately 10,000 items in the Masquers collection. This was done to determine the collection's academic value and to assist in making a long-range plan for the preservation of the collection. A digitally-photographed record of the materials in the collection will, ultimately, form a computerized catalogue of the items. This, in turn, will become a prized resource to be utilized in theatre history courses, community education and the West Virginia Folklife Center's material culture study.

For more information about the collection, call Dr. Beth Newcome at (304) 367-4298.