Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University

Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University

The Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University can be found at 501 N. Earl St. and contains thousands of donated clothing items and accessories. The museum’s incoming exhibit, “Instrumental Fashion: Attire and Song” is scheduled to open March 30 and run through Nov. 14.

Maddie Seiler

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Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University 1

The Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University can be found at 501 N. Earl St.

Maddie Seiler

Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University

Karin Bohleke believes everyone can relate to a need for clothes.

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It’s a common thread the director of the Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University sees woven throughout the fabric of society.

Karin Bohleke - Fashion Archives and Museum of Shippensburg University


”This is the most human artifact you can preserve that everyone can relate to in one way and that is we all need clothes, for protection from the environment, for showing how we fit in, but also expressing our individuality,” Bohleke said.

Founded in 1961, the archives originally occupied an older dormitory before moving to its current 501 N. Earl St. location in 2016.

Though its website claims the collection totes about 15,000 clothing items and accessories, Bohleke believes that number is actually approaching 25,000.

”Inventory is ongoing,” she said.

Bohleke said the majority of the items in the collection were donated, adding, “I never know what is going to be offered.”

The organization’s collection includes Coptic textiles from Egypt dating back to the second through ninth centuries as well as a pair of wedding shoes from 1737. (tncms-asset)2245d942-c4f9-11ee-9549-d3dcf4f9080a[3](/tncms-asset)

More recent additions include a field uniform and field equipment from the Vietnam War.

”When it comes to military gear, the actual field uniform as opposed to dress uniform is very hard to get because it basically got abused out in the field,” Bohleke said.

A costume historian, she has served as the museum’s director since 2007.

She said not all donated items are accepted and many of these decisions are based on recognizing gaps in the organization’s collection.

”I refuse a lot of duplicative items, but I’m always keeping an eye out for rare items, unique items things that also represent harder to obtain examples of what used to be common, and by that I mean working attire that generally gets worn out, turned into rags and discarded,” Bohleke said. “I try to get that balance between men’s, women’s, children’s [and] accessories, working class to designer and everything in between.”(tncms-asset)af25e398-bf72-11ee-b863-7fffc5bc8dcf[4](/tncms-asset)

Pieces in the archives’ collection are displayed through rotating exhibits that fill the space’s gallery.

Bohleke said about one or two exhibits cycle through each year.

The organization’s recent “(Re)shaping the Body” exhibit, which closed in November, showcased how fashion was designed to alter the body’s appearance.

Work is in progress on the next exhibit titled “Instrumental Fashion: Attire and Song,” which will feature clothes that represent songs such as “The Lady in Red” by Chris de Burgh, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra, “Cardigan” by Taylor Swift and “Green Green Dress” from the musical “Tick Tick Boom.”

This exhibit will open March 30 and run through Nov. 14. (tncms-asset)f05282f0-c4f8-11ee-8457-67dfb479c898[5](/tncms-asset)

At any given time, Bohleke said she has the next several years of exhibits planned out, allowing time to conserve and stabilize each piece to be included with the display.

”When you’re 150 years old, you need some help before you can go on display,” she said.

Volunteers work to make repairs that will support pieces and allow them to be stretched onto mannequins for the exhibit without being damaged in the process.

”The artifacts have to look good so the museum looks good,” Bohleke said.

Next year’s exhibit will dive into the intersection of dolls and fashion, including a look at Barbie and beyond.

As items rotate through exhibit gallery displays, additional items in the archives’ collection are stored downstairs or loaned out to other museums. (tncms-asset)6fd9e86e-b46f-11ee-83c6-035142a50176[6](/tncms-asset)

Bohleke said the archives’ collection sets Shippensburg apart from other institutions. The organization’s biggest competitors are at Kent State University in Ohio and Drexel University in Philadelphia, she said.

It also gives students hands-on museum training, and offers experience for students in Shippensburg University’s history, art, communications and marking programs and more, she said.

”Our garments are published in multiple books and articles and we do loans to other museums and all of that raises Shippensburg’s profile too and has made us a destination place … first for students and for visitors,” Bohleke said. “And let’s face it, everybody loves gorgeous clothing.”

She has found visitors tend to gravitate to the older items rather than more recent fashion they might remember.(tncms-asset)079284f6-ba04-11ee-beda-c3bd788ea72f[7](/tncms-asset)

”Clothing contains so much more than the history of what people wore,” Bohleke said. “It’s the history of culture. It’s the history of technology and invention and economic history, the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next if you have something hand knitted, for example. So there are so many aspects that you can study when you study historical dress.”

The archives is open from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and non-Shippensburg University students with a valid ID. It is free for Shippensburg students, faculty, staff and children age 12 and under. (tncms-asset)29bfcbfc-c4f8-11ee-969a-836c1453a809[8](/tncms-asset)

Maddie Seiler is a news reporter for The Sentinel and covering Carlisle and Newville. You can contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at: @SeilerMadalyn

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