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
Anna Rose Keefe