Located in Campbell Hall on The Ohio State University campus, the Historic Costume and Textiles Collection is truly a gem in the university’s crown. The collection, part of OSU’s College of Education and Human Ecology, was established by Ohio State faculty in the 1920s and has grown through donations and acquisitions into an expansive collection of nearly 12,000 items.
The collection includes an array of items, including clothing, buttons and accessories dating back to the mid-18th century and some textiles go back much further – the oldest European items dating to 1450-1510 and pre-Columbian South American to the 9th-11th century. These pieces provide a rich perspective into the evolution of culture over time. Students, faculty and visitors can study the changing fashions of men, women and children from around the world, lending insight into the culture of the times and bringing to life periods of history in a unique way.
Gayle Strege, collection curator, joined the university in 1996 and has played an instrumental role in creating digital access, improving organization and preservation, and curating engaging exhibits to highlight the importance of the collection. Gayle, whose background includes theater costuming and museum work, is passionate about textiles and fascinated with the way items are constructed. She enjoys helping students discover connections between the garment and the history of the individuals who created and wore it. The collection is frequently studied by the 20th Century Fashion History course, offered in the Fashion/Retail Studies major. Courses including Women in Modern Europe (History), Women and Gender in the US (History) and Children and Childhood in the Western World (History), Art History, Education and English Literature are a few of the other classes that access the collection to create a deeper understanding of the cultures and subjects they study. Students visit the collection in person and can access many items on the collection’s website, which provides detailed images and background information.
The collection also contains an assortment of over 25,000 buttons which were gifted to the university by former Battelle librarian Ann Rudolph. The buttons are organized on cards by a variety of characteristics, including size, shape, color and material and provide an ongoing project for the collections caretakers – photographing and cataloging them for future enthusiasts!
The Historic Costume and Textile Collection operates a gallery in Campbell Hall. The current exhibit celebrates a variety of fashionable outerwear, providing a rich “history of fashion in the shape of capes, coats, and cloaks”. Past exhibits include bridal fashion and Columbus’ fashion story. The gallery is free and open to the public and we highly recommend visiting.
The Ohio State University Historic Costume and Textile Collection is amazing and culturally important, giving audiences the opportunity to experience the technical aspects, aesthetics and social meaning of apparel and textiles.