Tuesday, February 3, 2009

COSTUMES COLLECTION - Drexel Historic Costume Gallery

COSTUMES COLLECTION - Drexel Historic Costume Gallery

I have a weakness for looking at fine clothing from past eras, so the digital collection from the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design at Drexel University was a neat discovery for me to make; however while the pictures were fun to look at, the format (mainly the webpage) was weak and disorganized.

*a searchable database of objects
*a feature that allows users to rotate the picture so you can view the clothing all the way around.
*"hot spots" that allow you to zoom 3X so you can see minute details, embellishments, and weave of the cloth.
*a panoramic video that spans around the room so user can get an idea of what it would be like in the museum.
*a digital gallery that takes users on a virtual tour, explaining the history, context and materials used behind the clothing.

As of now, the collection at Drexel is estimated at about 7,000 pieces; the digital "museum" has digitized 130 objects with no clear indication of why they were chosen. The main feature in this website appears to be to showcase their exhibits and a particular collection that was donated by a prominent historical clothing collector. The objects featured in the digital collection are mainly female clothing, mostly evening gowns or formalwear ranging from the early 19th century to current times. There are some truly exquisite pieces and the digital collection allows for a greater audience.

Each image is given a set of metadata: the designer's name, date created, category of type of clothing, fiber content, textile, embellishment, archival data and is also accompanied by a description and notes from the curator. This detailed listing helps when searching through the database for a specific era, designer, or cloth. As for collaboration or interoperability, I am unsure if Drexel's digital collection will be compatible with other institutions and agencies; however, the list of metadata seems to be based on common labels used when curating historical costumes.

While the searchable database is clear and straightforward, the "digital gallery" is another story. The virtual tour, while giving out relevant and interesting information is messy and some of the text is superimposed over the pictures or links, thus belittling the professionalism of the site.

For all the vagueness on the digital collection's digitization policy, their intent for undertaking this project is clear. The Media Arts and Design College collaborated with the College of Information Science and Technology in order to serve fashion and textile design students, fashion professionals, historic costume scholars, and followers of fashion trends, current and past. This is stated explicitly on their website. This is also a project currently at work , so maybe the content of the digital collection will increase and the format for showing their pieces will get more polished as it develops.

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