Imagine having access to every textile with a simple click of your mouse. In today’s, world accessibility is a must – correction, digital accessibility is a must. Recently, I attended the “Fashion: Now & Then” Conference at LIM College. During the conference, presenters and academics shared their research findings related to fashion studies and history. Many of the topics were similar, but one in particular stood out to me based on its relevance to our course.
When beginning any research assignment an individual usually starts off with a general search. This search could be in the physical campus library or at home via their laptop. I always begin at my laptop. I brew a cup of hot tea; throw my hair into a messy bun, fire up my laptop and get down to business. Unfortunately, some types of research need a hands-on approach. You must go out into the public to find and work with primary sources. I am a bit of a research romantic. I enjoy handling treasures from the past. I also find myself appreciating the “non-hassle” research style of the Internet. I believe that for certain research is it necessary to work with materials in person.
Research data bases and Online Archives such as Textile Hive challenge this ideal. Many fashion designers and researchers find inspiration from the past or world around them. Textile Hive is an example of an integrated archival collection. An integrated archival collection starts as a physical or digital collection and then makes a transition to encompass both the physical and digital collections characteristics. The Textile Hive boasts that its interface provides clear search, discovery and exploration experiences for its users. I find it difficult to believe a digital format can provide the same rich experience as visiting a physical archive. I do believe that Textile Hive fills a gap in making more textile collections accessible. Also, sometimes a physical archive must shut its doors. A digital archive provides a secondary outlet. It allows an archive or collection to continue. It is important to keep collections connected to people and to other collections.
Textile Hive began in 2009 when Caleb Sayan digitized the contents of the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection with the hopes to reach a more extensive audience. Textile Hive’s ultimate goal is “to find a permanent home for the physical and digital collection with an educational institution, cultural organization, or other partnership to ensure that the collection be utilized, built upon, and preserved for future generations” (http://textilehive.com/pages/the-project). Since I am studying to become an archivist, I appreciate their goal. I appreciate their goal because it focuses both on the physical and digital collection.
One of my favorite features of Textile Hive is their search capabilities. According to Sayan, there are over 18 different ways an individual can search their site. As a former teacher, I like that this site caters to various learners and allows for different search techniques. For example, you can search by: technique, material, condition, pattern, embellishment, and gender, object type, etc. Another cool feature is that you can compare two searches on the same screen. This feature would definitely come in handy for anyone pursuing an assignment about cultural studies.
Besides providing a digitized image, Textile Hive also provides the necessary metadata and various informational videos. The videos explore topics like the historical context of the textile. I was impressed with the amount of visual exploration tools. Visual archiving will continue to grow as a means to promote the digital nature of today.
Fashion and textile studies can provide powerful insight into culture, gender, political studies and much more. I found the “Fashion: Now & Then” conference to be inspirational as I continue to gather research about Mid 80s Fashion here in the East Village, NYC. There is much more to fashion studies than meets the eye.
Please explore Textile Hive to learn more: http://textilehive.com/
Images are from http://textilehive.com/ and my personal Instagram