Inspired Design: Lasell College at ATHM

May 15, 2010 – August 1, 2010

American Textile History Museum Partners With Lasell College For “Inspired Design” Hat Exhibit
Everything old is new again at the American Textile History Museum, where a stunning new exhibit showcases contemporary hat designs by talented young designers from Lasell College along with the hats that inspired them from ATHM’s amazing historic collection.

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Inspired Design: Lasell College at ATHM runs through August 1 in ATHM’s Lowell Sun Charities Gallery. The exhibit includes dozens of pieces, both vintage and contemporary, from the whimsical to the dramatic. Since most museum visitors – like the students at the beginning of this semester – know very little about how hats are made, the exhibition also includes the blocks and other tools used to create the shape of each hat, along with basic materials and decorative elements that are blended into a finished design.

ATHM Curator Karen Herbaugh said the inspiration for the exhibit was generated last summer when ATHM staff and Lasell professors got together to discuss partnering on an exhibition as part of the Museum’s 50th anniversary in 2010.

The concept for Inspired Design was a perfect fit for Lasell College’s goal of integrating traditional teaching with active learning experiences and making a connection between theory and practice, according to Mary Ruppert Stroescu, Chair of the Lasell College Fashion Department.

“What a fantastic experience for Lasell College,” she said. “The students had full access to fabulous hats for inspiration, were judged by professionals, and exhibited in this incredible museum. It’s a perfect fit, and we’re thrilled to be part of this exciting exhibit.”

Professors Lynn Blake and Jill Carey worked with ATHM staff to develop a plan that involved both their classes.  Blake teaches the Accessories Design course, and Carey teaches Collection Research.
The project began online, where students conducted initial research to review hats using ATHM’s Chace Catalogue. They then traveled to Lowell for a field trip, where they had the opportunity to examine the hats in detail, choosing one as the inspiration for their own design.

“Listening to the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ from the students as many of them saw their first vintage piece was very exciting,” Ms. Herbaugh said. “It was fun to listen to the students try to recreate the history of each hat, guessing who might have worn it, and where.”

The class project was also a competition, as the students vied to have their designs chosen for one of the coveted spots in the Museum exhibit. The competition culminated in a juried exhibition in April, judged by South Boston hat designer Marie Galvin, Lasell professors Mary Ruppert-Stroescu and Jeanne McDavitt, and ATHM staff Karen Herbaugh and Diane Fagan Affleck.

At a preview reception May 14, the winning designers were revealed: Best of Show to Aurisha Albright, and Honorable Mentions to Natalie Thomas and Britney Savoie. All three students are seniors.

The winning designer, Aurisha Albright, was thrilled with her experience with the American Textile History Museum.

“The hat collection is so extensive and impressive at the museum. It was really great to be able to handle and see how the hats were constructed and put together before I made mine,” she said. “I am very honored to have had the opportunity to work with the Museum and exhibit my work.”

The awards were presented by Nancy Donahue, a Lasell College graduate and longtime ATHM supporter and current member of the ATHM Board of Advisors.

“This is so exciting. I never dreamed that these two paths of my life would connect in such a fabulous way,” Mrs. Donahue said. “This exhibit is such a wonderful example of how the Textile Museum is reinventing itself, bringing a younger generation into the museum in creative and relevant ways.”

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