An American Style: Global Sources for New York Textile and Fashion Design, 1915-1928

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Bard Graduate Center, Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, 2013 - Art - 144 pages
"In 1915 the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) embarked upon a mission to energize the American textile industry. The movement, sparked by the reappropriation of the French textile industries for the war effort, was at first provincial in its focus. Drawing upon the notion that Euro-American culture could lay claim to indigenous objects of the Americas, AMNH anthropology curators sought to innovate a distinctly "American" design idiom based on the museum’s ethnographic collections. The central figures in this project were M. D. C. Crawford, research fellow at the AMNH and Women’s Wear journalist, curator of anthropology Clark Wissler, assistant curator of anthropology Herbert Spinden, and curator of Peruvian art Charles Mead. Naturally, Crawford was a key liaison to manufacturers and designers, but many documents in the AMNH Archives suggest that Spinden, Wissler, and Mead were equally instrumental, in the museum’s effort to promote good design. These men, coined the "Fashion Staff," presented lectures, published prescriptive manuals, and curated temporary exhibitions. Seeking a toehold in the world of fashion design and paralleling the United States’ entry into World War I in 1917, the AMNH curators took steps to attract designers and manufacturers to the museum, including by supplementing the study room with a variety of specimens that ranged from fur garments from Siberia to Javanese textiles. In 1919 the AMNH mounted The Exhibition of Industrial Art in Textiles and Clothing, a comprehensive display of "indigenous" artifacts and modern design to promote the value of the museum to designers. The exhibition would signal the end of the museum’s full engagement with the design industry but the use of the collections by designers would continue into the late 1920s"--Provided by publisher.

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