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A hidden gem on the Ships campus

A hidden gem on the Ships campus
A hidden gem on the Ships campus


The Shippensburg University Fashion Archives and Museum is a unique and historic on-campus destination dedicated to the preservation and presentation of fashion through the ages. It was created in 1980 by Dr. Elizabeth Thompson, a former sociology professor who was interested in the stark differences between historical children's clothing and clothing worn by modern-day children. Over time, the museum has grown from a few lecture pieces to a large collection respected nationally and globally. Internationally renowned art wear has been published in books from London publishing houses and in scientific articles. Currently, the Fashion Archives and Museum have objects loaned to the DAR Museum in Washington, DC, and they just recovered a loan of The Frick in Pittsburgh.

Thompson's interest in historical clothing began with personal research and a small collection in his office. She recognized that historical clothing has educational value, and the university president at the time supported Thompson's vision, which later led to the creation of the Fashion Archives and Museum. Since the museum opened in 1980, the museum has collected a wide range of clothing, textiles and accessories which all offer a glimpse into the past.

Since 2007, Dr Karin J Bohleke served as director of the Fashion Archives and Museum and teaches courses in the History/Philosophy Department. Bohleke is a talented seamstress with a wealth of knowledge about preserving historic textiles and clothing.

“I was born in Norway, my family is Norwegian. And, you know, kids learn to knit very early, boys and girls, men and women, it's just the culture. I come from a family that is very handy in textiles. I mean, they're professional tailors and seamstresses, and I have a photo of my great-great-grandmother posed in her living room with her embroidery projects, the finishes draped all around her. I mean, it was generations, I think it's genetic. I spin, weave, knit, crochet, sew, embroider, tattoo and I can also make bobbin lace. So all of those skills are applied to costume identification as well as any conservation,” Bohleke said.

Typically, many university collections remain invisible, but Ships Fashion Archives and Museum reaches out to the public by presenting exhibitions of various garments, and they change regularly, each following a new theme. The current exhibition, Instrumental Fashions: Attire and Song, connects song lyrics from various famous artists to fashion pieces. For example, some of the iconic exhibits include outfits inspired by songs like Taylor Swift's Cardigan and the Bad Bunnys song You Visto Asi, translated as I Dress Like This. This exhibition will be accessible to the public until November.

Shippensburg University Fashion Archives and Museum

Display inspired by Taylor Swift's song “Cardigan” (far left) and Bad Bunny display inspired by her song “Yo Vista Asi” (right).

Visitors can look forward to the museum's upcoming exhibit, which will highlight the intersection of dolls and fashion. This exhibition will feature original Barbies paired with adult equivalents, showcasing the evolution of fashion through the lens of dolls. The exhibit will include a Shirley Temple doll from the 1930s, paired with a Shirley Temple children's dress and many other historic garments.

The Fashion Archives and Museum also offers internships, work-study programs and various volunteer positions that students and the public can take advantage of. Students in fields such as communications, history, art, business and everything in between have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their discipline. Currently, two interns, Nicole Ocker and Kristen Ackerman, are working on the museum's social media content and events. Summer volunteers include Joanne Dunisan, Emily Biddle and James Smetzer, a former graduate assistant.

For more information, including visiting hours and upcoming events, visit the Fashion Archives and Museum. website and stay informed of the latest news from the museum on Instagram.




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