The last day of the symposium ties with Day 1 as the most impactful day of the symposium, for me. Rachel M. Sullivan, from Oregon State University presented on a comparison she worked on with Elaine L. Pederson about Western College’s dress styles from 1949 to 1957. Kimberly Chrisman Campbell, Jo Paoletti, and Petra Slinkard held a panel discussion entitled Beyond Material Culture: Sources for Scholarship. As a student I took away from the presentation and panel tools on how to analyze sources.
Sullivan presented her methods for analyzing dress at Western College, which relied mostly on photographs from magazine editorials and yearbooks. Strong content analysis was her framework all of her sources were print related sources which is a skill that is not emphasized to students. Her completed work to date has resulted in a survey of 1950s women’s dress. Sullivan also has a formula for content analysis to either move forward or backward in the timeline to survey other styles of dress. When talking with her Sullivan is eager to expand her search to more regions in the same time period.
Campbell (an independent scholar), Paoletti (professor and lecturer), and Slinkard (Chicago History Museum) emphasized a depolarization in the way scholars use garments/ accessories and print sources. The arguments made by the presenters included the idea that garments and accessories may not be available to you as a scholar, does that make your work less valid? Does focusing on a specific designer or rich individual limit the scope of dress/costume study? How does access, student vs. independent scholar vs. museum professional, restrict study? The roundtable discussion was lively, the participants and presenters had strong opinions. And while most of the questions were not resolved, as a student observing the interactions between scholars was very eye opening. Many participants saw a strong necessity to think of the garment and then other sources while others agreed that every source that supports the scholars argument should be valued equally. If the roundtable did nothing else, it inspired conversation about changes that could be made to how we think about sources.
The final day was bittersweet. This was my first introduction to many contributors to dress and costume scholarship. Reading an article or book by a contributor is not the same as interacting with them in person. I met students from other programs like NYU, University of Rhode Island, and … who were passionate and as wide eyed as I was. I interacted with founding members and veteran scholars as well as museum professionals that were as new to the CSA as I was. I want to encourage any student to attend the CSA or any other symposium/conference because interacting with knowledge in real time is worth the ticket price. While there is always room for improvement in any organization, overall the words I would use to describe my experience are warm, inspiring, and fun.