OBJETS D'ÉTUDE: THE POLITICS OF THE STUDY COLLECTION IN THE FASHION MUSEUM

"Objets d'Étude: The Politics of the Study Collection in the Fashion Museum" is an exhibition exploring the nature of the study collection and its capacity to enhance a discussion about the ideologies behind fashion in museums. Curated by the students of the MA Fashion Studies at The New School Parsons Paris in collaboration with ModeMuseum in Antwerp (MoMu), this exhibition investigates the multiple meanings of the Study Collection, the trajectories behind its formation, and its potential to unsettle current museums' practices. What is a study collection? What is the selection criteria behind its formation? How does it relate to the main museum collection? What type of alternative stories does it enable? And how can the study collection become a tool to rethink ideas of fashion today?

The exhibition begins to answer these questions, investigating issues of value creation in museums, discourses on authenticity and originality in fashion, museums' histories and policies, and interpretation of objects in museums. Using MoMu's study collection as a case study, students selected ten pieces that provoke significant interpretations. These were developed through a study of the history of fashion exhibitions, interviews with MoMu's staff and international fashion museums' experts, museums' documentation and theoretical works. The aim is to show the potential of the study collection and its capacity to disrupt current ideologies that govern practices of collecting, conserving, exhibiting fashion in museums.

My research focus was exhibited in the section, "Mapping MoMu Study Collection." This section introduces the study collection through the presentation of its origins, its components, its uses and the mechanics behind its formation. Using a Dior coat as a starting point, it follows the social biography of the garment, performing the circulation that characterises the life of many objets belonging to this study collection. The aim is to represent the practical and ideological issues - such as lack of storage space, and funding deficits - that not only dictate museums' collecting practices, but also generate opportunities for the establishment of study collections. Furthermore, garments are also used to evidence the role of private collectors and the transformation of exclusive objects such as patterns into educational tools once they enter the study collection. Lastly, this section shows how the study collection not only exists and circulates materially but also digitally, where online databases provide an alternative and innovative approach to accessing fashion collections. 

"Objets d'Études: The Politics of the Study Collection in the Fashion Museum,"

The New School, Parsons Paris exhibition.

Photos by Vinciane Lebrun/Voyez-Vous. 

Parsons Paris coverage here.