Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Missouri History Museum- Curator Shannon Berry

photo credit: Crazy quilt with taxidermic chipmunks and birds
Patchwork, 1882

EXHIBITING GALLERY: Missouri History Museum

TITLE OF SHOW: Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond and From a Common Cloth: Quilts from the Missouri History Museum Collection

OPENING DATE AND CLOSING DATE: Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond Through September 13, 2009

From a Common Cloth: Quilts from the Missouri History Museum Collection Through December 31, 2009



Mary Lee Bendolph, Gee’s Bend Quilts, and Beyond: the first exhibition to highlight one of Gee's Bend's most original artists, Mary Lee Bendolph, her predecessors and progeny, and the artistic dialogue they share with artists beyond their quilting community.

From a Common Cloth: Quilts from the Missouri History Museum Collection: From elaborate to austere, quilts from the museum’s extensive textiles collection are varied in pattern and provenance. Discover some of the finest examples of decorative and utilitarian quilts from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Missouri History Museum
Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park
St. Louis, Missouri
    Submitted by Curator: Shannon Berry
  • Tell us a bit more about yourself: your location, professional affiliations, personal stuff… My name is Shannon Berry, and I am the Senior Curator at the Missouri History Museum. I have worked as a curator here for 9 years. I have my undergraduate degree in Textile and Apparel Management with an emphasis in Marketing and Merchandising, and I have my Masters in the same field with an emphasis in Historic Clothing and Textiles and a minor in Museum Studies. I am on the regional board for the Costume Society of America.
  • What first inspired you to become a curator?

    My original career plan was to work in retail, but I discovered quickly that wasn’t the right path for me. I always had an interest in history, and the historic costume classes were always my favorite, but I didn’t know you could make a job out of it. While interning at Sax Fifth Avenue in New York I went to the Metropolitan Museum and discovered the Costume Institute. It was here that I realized that someone had to have the job of collecting and displaying these beautiful garments, and I decided that person should be me. I went back to school to study historic clothing and museum studies, and now that is what I do.

  • What is a typical day for you?

    There is no such thing as a typical day! On any given day I usually attend at least one meeting. These include things like team meetings for exhibits that I am working on, update meetings with other staff members, Curators Review – where we talk about new donations that have come in, and Production Meetings – where we talk about plans and schedules for installation, de-installations, rotations and exhibit maintenance. I also meet with donors regularly, which could be at work or in their home.

    Another huge aspect of my job as a curator is research and writing. When I’m working on an upcoming exhibit I spend my days doing research, cataloging artifacts, writing condition reports, and writing labels.

  • How does your process of creating an exhibit begin?

    I like to work with what I already have. I spend time in the storeroom learning my collection and looking for inspiration. When I was asked to come up with a variety of possible exhibit topics for the future I was able to say that we had 200 wedding gowns to choose from if we wanted to do a wedding dress exhibit (which lead to the UnCommon Threads exhibit), or that we have over 100 quilts if we want to do our own small quilt exhibit while the Gee’s Been quilts are here. When I was recently approached about doing an exhibit on The Little Black Dress, I knew that we probably didn’t have enough to support that idea on its own, but that if we approached it from a different direction and incorporated traditional 19th century mourning clothing as well as 20th century fashion, that we have enough artifacts to support an interesting exhibit.

  • What is your next project?

    I am doing a small case of pink shoes that will go in the Grand Hall of the museum in September. It is actually being done to coincide with a fundraising event being held in the museum to raise money for mobile mammography units, but we are going to leave the case up for about a month so that the public can enjoy it too. On a larger scale, I am on the exhibit team for the local component of a traveling exhibit called Homelands: How Women Made the West, which we are getting from the Autry Museum in 2010. And soon I am hoping to start research on an exhibit called Little Black Dress: From Mourning to Evening, which is being proposed for 2011.

1 comment:

  1. I have been looking for a sign as to what I am supposed to do with my life, and I think I just found it. I too have an undergraduate degree in Merchandising and Management. I planned a career in Retail but this hasn't been working out very well. I have always been interested in Historic clothing and even had a vintage inspired wedding. I am also a talented writer but I didn't know how I wanted utilize this talent. I am now considering furthering my education in this area. Thank you!