Wednesday 12 May 2010

Turn to the left

Fashion exhibitions bore me to tears. I think it's the mannequins. They look as bored as I feel.

Having said that, now I'm going to blog about a fashion show. Well - two fashion shows, and the (much more interesting to me) online activity around one of them.

In January 2009 the Metropolitan Museum of Art took over the custodianship of the Brooklyn Museum's fashion collection, as the BM was no longer able to afford to maintain it. Two concurrent shows have been organised using the combined collection: 'American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity' at the Met, and 'American High Style' at the Brooklyn Museum. (Check out the Roberta Smith and C-Monster reviews).

Installation view of 'American High Style' by Carolina Miranda, on

So far, so-so. Bored looking mannequins. And then I saw Shelley Bernstein's post, where she described how Brooklyn Museum has partnered with Polyvore (a fashion-lovers website, where members get tools they can use to collage together fashion items and other visual material then save & share the results), uploading images of collection items so they can be remixed with contemporary fashion items.

My friend Nat nailed it in an O'Reilly Radar post: "the greatest challenge to heritage institutions is irrelevance, not penury. Brooklyn Museum is unsurpassed in creating relevance for its collections and its existence, and they do it by reaching out, where people are and not expecting them to come directly to us." As they so often do, the Museum has successfully taken itself out to the community, rather than waited and hoped the community might come to them.

The interactive on the Brooklyn Museum website

The remix tool is available in three places; on a kiosk in the exhibition, on the Brooklyn Museum website, and on Polyvore itself.

Vintage, by pinkopaque22 on Polyvore

As Shelley Bernstein notes:

I often speak about going to community and engaging on their terms and this is a good example of that—we need to be reaching out, where people are and not expecting them to come directly to us. As a museum with a small tech staff, we need to be mindful of any opportunities that come our way that can save us time and coding and Polyvore fits that bill too. ... It’s rare to have an opportunity like this one that so beautifully melds all of these objectives, but keeping our eyes open to these possibilities has provided something exciting for our visitors.

I think this is a beautiful project. The only extension I can think of would be to get the writers from Go Fug Yourself to review the exhibitions (in much the way they reviewed the Met's recent Costume Institute ball).

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