While researching an unrelated, yet very interesting, collection we discovered the answer to an enigma that has been entertaining and confusing our volunteers for almost 3 years. In our collection is a wonderfully loud/synthetic/rhinestone jumpsuit from the 1970s. Knowing the focus of our organization and its sometimes conservative approach to collecting the question was “What is it?” and “How did it get here?”. Unfortunately these questions could be applied to many of the artifacts we have discovered, but, happily, this is one where the mystery (at least for now) appears to be solved.
While looking through our newly digitized gift reciepts, the entry of one “evening ensemble worn by donor in 1970 for the 25th anniversary of the College of St. Rose. Green and silver brocade. Culottes, trim of rhinestone and diamante” stuck out. It appeared too good to be true that this was actually our questionable item, but after after comparison with the photographs it does fit.
Although, this is an amusing artifact to be concerned about it does symbolize the very difficult issues we have on a daily basis reconciling artifacts and their history. The “who” and “why” of an artifact is often even more important than the “what”. A china tea set does little good in portraying the history of Schenectady County unless you know who used it and why they thought it important enough to save for the future. In the case of our ensemble, it was merely an amusing artifact, but now its story has been rediscovered. Whether this will help it stand the test of time is yet to be seen, but who knows how many people threw out great-grandpa’s 1890 jeans thinking they were unimportant.