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Victoria & Albert Museum: Curatorial Training Course

by Adam MacPharlain

3/14/2016

curatorial , learning & interpretation , travel , Fashion Arts & Textiles , fashion , CAM staff

 

I am the Curatorial Assistant of Fashion Arts and Textiles here at the Cincinnati Art Museum and recently I was able to travel to Europe as a representative of the Museum to attend a training course on fashion curation put on by the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in London. This was a one-week program with twenty-one participants from across the UK, North America, Europe, and Asia. Each participant was encouraged to have a project in mind before the course started, anything from an exhibition to collaborating with designers. At the end of the program, we were asked to share our project and how the course helped us further develop our ideas.

Some of the highlights of the course:

  • An introduction into the structure of the V&A’s costume and textiles department.
  • A guided tour of the museum’s permanent fashion gallery, focusing on display decisions, limitations, and reasoning.
  • A talk from the curator of their upcoming exhibition, Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear, about the process of getting this show ready.
  • A tour of their costume storage facilities and textile conservation labs.
  • A workshop on mounting fashion (how to make costume look great on mannequins).
  • A run-through of putting on the blockbuster exhibition, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.
  • A roundtable discussion of making fashion exhibitions from various departmental perspectives.
  • A look at copyright laws with regards to fashion collections.
  • A tour of the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design, with a personal welcome video from the president of Condé Nast International (who oversees all non-US Condé Nast publications).

Beyond attending the course, I went to as many fashion exhibitions as I could. In London I was able to see installations at Kensington Palace and the Museum of London. I also decided to hop over to Paris and saw exhibitions at the Musée Galliera and took a 3-hour train ride to Granville to the Musée Christian Dior. One thing I learned is that February is not a good time to go to Europe for fashion exhibitions. Several museums that I had hoped to visit were in-between temporary exhibitions, including, the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, the ModeMuseum in Antwerp, and even the V&A (luckily they have their permanent fashion gallery!).

Overall, the course and seeing these exhibitions were a great opportunity for my own professional development and also a great way to keep up with best practices in the museum field.