If Ferragamo patent leather t-strap heels and magic lanterns are some of your favorite things, drop by The Ohio State University and catch two exhibitions.
“History’s Closet: Teaching History through Clothes,” the Historic Costume & Textiles Collection’s current exhibition, showcases an Institute of Museum and Library Services-funded grant project that helped to support digital photography of artifacts that could be used to teach history in accordance with Ohio’s curriculum for grades 8 through 12. The grant also provided for workshops in which teachers received information and resources to create lesson plans using the digital images.
Five periods of history are highlighted in the exhibition. This brown-and-green striped silk velvet man’s coat with floral embroidery, made between 1780 and 1815, is one of three artifacts demonstrating how changing political ideals were reflected in the popular fashions of the early American republic. During this period, stiff, heavily decorated ensembles were replaced with simpler, Greek-inspired styles of clothing.
This gold silk satin evening gown dating from 1867 represents how women followed fashion trends around the time of the Civil War. Readers of fashion magazines either hired a dressmaker to reproduce the clothing pictured in periodicals like Harper’s Bazaar and Godey’s Lady’s Book, or they constructed the garments themselves with the help of paper patterns and a home sewing machine.
Ready-to-wear wool walking skirts like the one teamed with this white cotton shirtwaist with a lace and embroidery panel were some of the many items of clothing that were mass-produced in the early years of the 20th century.
World War II led to fabric shortages. Since wool, silk and leather were needed for the war effort, rayon, nylon, acetate and other synthetic fibers were used instead. This wedding dress, robe and gown were all made from parachutes in 1945 and 1946.
Newly developed textile fibers like synthetic leather, polyester and Ultrasuede became available in the second half of the 20th century. Their easy-to-care-for nature contributed to their popularity. This ensemble of a Courrèges orange vinyl coat, white vinyl modified cloche hat and white stretch vinyl go-go boots with front scalloped faux lacing is a terrific example of fashion popular from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s.
When I spotted a familiar-looking light brown suede fedora, I checked my exhibit list and made quite a discovery. Dating from the 1970s, this stylish hat once adorned the head of Dorothy Littlehale, a local landscape painter and arts patron who passed away at age 83 on April 24, 1987.
Mrs. Littlehale was a Columbus Art League officer who received the Ohioana Library Award for excellence in art, but I knew her as the stylish lady my grandparents, parents and I saw almost every Sunday morning for breakfast at The Christopher Inn, that nifty circular “motor inn” at 300 East Broad Street that opened in 1963 and was demolished in 1988. (If you don’t remember the Christopher Inn, check out this photo of it from the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Columbus in Historic Photographs database.) Her equally dapper husband, Bob Littlehale, owned an advertising agency and was equally involved in the arts, serving as president of the Columbus Arts Council and as an instigator of the Columbus Arts Festival. He passed away in 2002.
Wireless access to the museum’s Fashion2fiber website is available in the gallery via ipads to retrieve information regarding other artifacts that were not included in the exhibition.
Walk across Neil Avenue to Thompson Library and up the stairs to the exhibit gallery on the main floor to see “Theatre Magic: Technology, Innovation, and Effect.” This exhibition of items from the special collections of the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute explores the secrets behind special effects.
Artifacts illustrate how lighting creates a mood; how different production team members are responsible for the properties, or “props,” the smaller items that are found on the stage; and how magicians make objects appear to float or disappear with “black art” illusions. They also explain how an actor transforms himself into different characters through costumes, masks, vocal and physical exercises, and “sense memory,” a technique in which he recalls how his own personal experience is similar to a situation faced by the character. Let’s look at some objects included in the display.
A dancer wearing these “Sparky” shoes would give off sparks when she moved over metal plates on the stage floor. How? A flint stone was placed in a holder on the toe of the shoe.
Toy theatre was a popular home amusement from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. Sheets containing drawings of characters, costumes and scenery from popular plays — together with condensed versions of the scripts — were sold at the concession stands of theatres. After cutting out the characters and sets, people could recreate the performances at home. The exhibit contains a toy theatre from 1922; an augmented reality exhibit shows it in action. Sets convey the story or message of the production. This model is a scale version of the set William Barclay created for a 1984 production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York.
This 2004 working model of a 17th century Italian theatre was constructed with inspiration from a manuscript from the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma, Italy. The manuscript probably illustrates the stage house of the Teatro San Salvatore in Venice and a production of the 1675 play, La Divisione del Mondo.
If you’ve never seen a magic lantern, now’s your chance! Magic lantern shows were a hip form of entertainment in the days before motion pictures. Similar to slide projectors, magic lanterns were first powered by candles and oil lamps, then by electric light. Crowds gathered in private homes, meeting rooms and theatres to watch a “lanternist” show a series of glass slides and give accompanying remarks about subjects like world landmarks and fairy tales.
“History’s Closet: Teaching History through Clothes” is on view in the Gladys Keller Snowden Gallery at Campbell Hall, 1787 Neil Avenue, through June 28, 2014. The gallery is open Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Saturday, 12-4 p.m. It will be closed for spring break March 8-15.
“Theatre Magic: Technology, Innovation, and Effect” continues through May 11, 2014. The Thompson Library Gallery, at 1858 Neil Avenue Mall, is open Monday-Wednesday, 10 am to 6 pm; Thursday, 10 am to 8 pm; Friday, 10 am to 6 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 pm.
If you visit the exhibits on a weekday, treat yourself to a meal or a snack at Heirloom, a restaurant on the lower level of the Wexner Center for the Arts. The soups, salads, sandwiches, entrees and baked goods on the menu are made from locally grown or produced ingredients. Breakfast dishes are served all day. Heirloom is open Monday through Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.