Observations of a Fashion-Focused ATHM Tour

Education teacher Stephanie Sewhuk shadowed a guided tour for high school fashion students through ATHM’s main exhibit, “Textile Revolution: An Exploration through Space and Time.”  She then reported her experience to the ATHM Blog:

School groups have been coming through our doors in abundance this spring for programs and tours.  A clothing class from Conant High School was one such group recently.  Conant High is a public high school located in Jaffrey New Hampshire.   The groups’ teacher, Beverly Martin, is a Family and Consumer Science teacher at the school who brought her “Clothing 1” class of nine teenaged girls to visit the Museum that she stated she “loves.”

The group of girls arrived at the Museum and immediately gathered around our Calico printer and watched the video explanation as they waited for Kathy Hirbour, our Museum educator who would be giving them a tour. As their teacher checked in, she let us know how excited the girls were to be visiting the Museum and that this was a trip they had been looking forward to.

Clothing exhibits in the "Fitting In Gallery" were of particular interest to the students.

One of the wonderful things about our Museum educators such as Kathy is that they are knowledgeable and flexible enough to create a specialized tour specific to a certain group’s interests. In class, the girls had been studying fashion, designers, fabric aesthetics and sewing. Kathy’s tour was laced with explanations of how fabrics are made and the fibers that they come from.

This group was delighted to begin their tour with Kathy, who gave them animated explanations of clothing beginning with purposes and styles of the Colonial Days.  As the girls gathered before our colonial exhibits, they viewed dresses, petticoats, and caps while discussing everything from how they were attached with straight pins to the role of modesty in fashion during that time period. As they strolled through more of the Colonial portion of the Museum they discussed what roles girls their ages would have had in home cloth production and how this would have prepared them to have a family of their own.   One student asked “would my husband have expected me to sew his clothes too?”  When Kathy answered that he probably would have, her eyebrows raised and you could see the other girls considering this idea in amazement as they wandered the exhibits nearby.

At the Colonial kitchen the girls seem particularly interested in where colors for clothing would have come from.  They inspected pots and yarns on display and discussed the dye process using natural materials available during those days.  As they took their journey further into the exhibits they were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to touch and feel samples of cloth and fibers.  There were lots of “oooohs!” as they circled a booth in which they could feel samples of fabrics woven from various animal fibers while trying to guess which animal it came from.

The "General Store" exhibit at ATHM.

There was a new level of interest as the girls entered the General Store.  They wandered back and forth among the shelves examining all of the store’s offerings.  They questioned what things were and how they were used in the 1800’s while comparing them to what we use today.  Sugar, candle sticks, and toys were among the items they had questions about.  “How did they have fun?” one girl asked as she counted the limited supply of toys for children.  They were excited to hear that kids made their own toys and practiced their sewing skills by making their own doll clothing.  “We’re doing that too!” one girl exclaimed as their teacher explained to me that they are studying designers while creating modified versions of designer clothing for Barbie dolls.

The tour continued on through the exhibits, offering the girls a plethora of visual stimulation and inspirations for their sewing and fashion projects back at school.  With an interest in how fabric is made, the girls had a weaving demonstration and lesson back in the classroom.  Their teacher Beverly was very pleased with the tour and said she would love to have her Clothing class come each quarter, to take advantage of the Museum’s amazing exhibits.  We look forward to having Conant High visit us again and again in the future!

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