On Saturday 28th May, the Hellenic Costume Society held a symposium to reflect on the practice of exhibiting dress.
The symposium was organised in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute at Athens, and was part of the celebrations in Athens of the International Museum Day 2016. ‘Exhibiting Dress: Enganging with the Past and the Present’ – the title of the event – invited many experts to investigate the approaches and current trends in exhibiting dress in museums, aiming to find innovative ways to pursue the practices of display and exhibition making.
Prominent international figures from both museums and academia took part in the conversation, providing interesting insights and case studies to both reflect on the past and think how to move forward. These personalities came from a variety of institutions, and among them we can count Amy de la Haye (London School of Fashion), Sjouk Hoitsma (Museum Rotterdam), Flavia Loscialpo (Southampton Solent University), Sofia Pantouvaki (Aalto University), Monica Titton (University of Applied Arts Vienna); the curatorial teams of many Greek museums holding collections of historical dress were also present, as the Museum of Greek Folk Art, the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation and the Museum of the History of the Greek Costume.
New and interesting ideas and projects were presented during the sessions; the general direction seemed to consider the audience of fashion exhibitions as active agent in the shaping of the exhibits themselves: most paper featured videos, art and performances designed to engage with materiality and embodiment, trying to provide sensorial as well as visual experiences.
The use of new technologies and communicative techniques was discussed as well; in this sense, Sjouk Hoitsma, curator of Museum Rotterdam, presented a digital platform created in the context of Europeana Fashion project, giving a good example of how beneficial the cooperation between different institutions can be in the context of museum and fashion practice.
Mainly focused on the involvement of the public in fashion exhibitions, the symposium analyzed initiatives that invited residents in exploring their sartorial and national heritage; in this context, many projects that challenged the very meaning of exhibition and “exhibiting” were presented, stressing on how various the meanings of this practice have become and unveiling the potential of further explorations in the field of fashion exhibitions.