Lost in the Museum
When an object enters a museum’s collection, it typically is accompanied by a story. Each piece is labeled with a unique number connecting it to records about who owned it, when and where it was created, and when and why it was given to or purchased by the museum. The RISD Museum’s Costume and Textile Department cares for more than 30,000 objects. When a 2003 inventory revealed 1,400 works without accession numbers, they were set aside and placed into inventory boxes. Since then, these objects have been inaccessible, and their stories have remained unresolved.
Through careful sleuthing we are working to uncover how and why these pieces came to the museum. Clothes and textiles are extremely personal objects. We wear them, use them, and repair them in unique ways. An object’s history is an intrinsic part of its value, and the recovery of lost stories is a form of repair. Mending and patching the biographies of objects is part of caring for our collection.
— Anna Rose Keefe
Costume and Textiles Department
This installation is part of Repair and Design Futures, now on view on the sixth floor, with a related installation in Café Pearl at the Benefit Street entrance. Through this informal, expansive format, we hope to encourage engagement across a broad spectrum of perspectives.
Repair and Design Futures is made possible by a generous grant from the Coby Foundation and programming support from the RISD Museum Associates. It is also made possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of Assemblages, a Brown-RISD collaboration focused on object-based teaching and research. The RISD Museum is supported by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant
from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with the generous partnership of the Rhode Island School of Design, its Board of Trustees, and the RISD Museum Board of Governors