Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hanger House of Horrors

Starting today the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference is in town. Woo hoo! Can't wait to start re-imagining visitor encounters with objects and debate the risks and rewards of animating the collection through innovative visitor experiences!!!

(YES the museum field does have its own version of corporate jargon. Hopefully I'll be like:

And less:


On Monday night MOHAI is throwing a party and a few departments are going to be stationed at tables, showing off some of our work and talking about what we do. Betsy and I volunteered to do the collections one. She is going to set up a little pest identification station (can YOU tell the difference between a carpet beetle and a millipede?) and I'm going to have an assortment of padded hangers to talk about. I also thought it would be fun to print out pictures of the WORST hangers that I've discovered while going through the collection.

So for your enjoyment I present the MOHAI Hanger House of Horrors

For starters, there are lots of wire hangers in the collection and they are still deeply upsetting.
Here we have the added bonus of terrible acidic paper cover from the dry cleaner and a skirt attached with a safety pin.

Then there are the weird old "padded" hangers 
What could possibly be better for a historic garment than a wood hanger covered in a thin layer of purple acrylic yarn? Make sure to randomly tie a bow on one side for no reason at all!!

Then there are hangers with those terrible rubberized grip things. Here someone thought enough to wrap acid-free tissue around the hanger:
But seeing what the hanger started doing to the paper just makes me shudder to think about what that hanger would have done to the garment if someone hadn't thought to wrap the hanger. WHY WAS THIS TOXIC THING ALLOWED TO EVEN BE IN THE SAME ROOM WITH THE COLLECTION???

Things get really interesting though during bad idea craft time.

This is a hanger padded with acid-free tissue (not terrible) and then secured with large swaths of masking tape (ooooh swing and a miss). 

When fully unwrapped and dissected, this turned out to be a metal hanger wrapped in a black T-shirt, wrapped in twine. Not the worst thing you could do, but….why??

Here is another creative padded approach:
This is a hanger wrapped in bubble wrap, covered with an unwashed scrap of muslin which has been secured with straight pins. 

And finally, the one that legitimately makes my blood boil, this "helpful" attempt to put notches in a straight hanger:

If you can't tell, that is one very rough, sharp edge on which to hang something. Most of the above have been one-offs, but I have found lots of these. And what are they used for? Why, to hang sleeveless silk dresses of course! What a brilliant idea to rest a soft, fragile silk strap against a sharp edge!! Even better if it is a heavy dress! What could possibly go wrong??? Last week I had 1920s dress with chiffon straps (yes chiffon) basically fall apart in my hands as I tried to move it off one of these hangers. 

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