The Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection comprises more than 23,000 artifacts with local, national and international significance that span 350 years of history. The collection includes everything from pre-Columbian South American textiles to 18th-century silk garments. Without proper maintenance of these artifacts, however, the viability of this historical treasure is at risk.
As the only collection of its size and significance held by a Canadian university, it enables students and researchers to better understand how garments are made and how they interact with the human body. It also helps them gain insight into historical and cultural traditions and the function of fashion across time and place — all impossible to learn from just looking at images of artifacts.
Collecting silk chiffon is very different than collecting rocks. As far as historical artifacts go, clothing and textiles are among the most fragile. They are in a constant state of deterioration, right from the moment of creation. And when they are gone, so, too, is the valuable information they provide about our social and cultural history.
“When we talk about preserving clothing, we’re talking about preserving history,” says Anne Bissonnette (pictured above), associate professor and curator of the Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection, housed in the University of Alberta’s Department of Human Ecology. When it comes to these fragile artifacts, collecting is not enough. “We need to maintain this collection to preserve it for future generations.”
But what can, for example, a velvet waistcoat from the 18th century teach us? Bissonnette and her students responded to this question in a recent public exhibition they co-curated on fashion and sustainability. This particular waistcoat features lacing in the back to adjust sizing, allowing for the garment to be worn through different stages of a man’s life as his body changed. Now in the age of disposable clothing and fast fashion, we can look to historical examples like this to help us work towards a more sustainable future
The Impact of Your Donation
Although the collection is preserved through a state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controlled storage facility, there is an urgent need for a textile conservator. When artifacts are used in the classroom and for public exhibitions, there is a risk of damage, inevitably accelerating deterioration. This threatens the long-term preservation of the collection and limits the amount of teaching that is possible. The lack of resources to properly care for and manage these artifacts also limits the ability to lend artifacts to other institutions and to grow the collection.
A textile conservator will manage the proper handling, storage and repair of artifacts for teaching, research and public exhibitions. Your donation, which will help establish this position, will help ensure future generations can see, touch and learn about history first-hand.
How to Help
Your investment will help secure a textile conservator position to ensure the protection and maintenance of artifacts in the Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection and permit their continued use by researchers and students for study and exhibition. Our goal is to create a $3 million endowment to establish an endowed conservator position. If this goal is not reached, a non-endowed position will be established.