Out and about with the FIDM Museum


FIDM Museum staff are headed to Atlanta, GA this week for the Costume Society of America National Symposium. Next week, curators Kevin Jones and Christina Johnson will present research at "The Making of a Monarchy for the Modern World" conference in London. In this post, FIDM Museum Registrar Meghan Hansen shares her reflections on a recent symposium sponsored by the Western Region of the Costume Society of America.

FIDM Museum is proud of its association with the Costume Society of America. Our staff has served on the Western Region and National Boards over the years, as well as organized events on-site for the organization. Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Museum Registrar Meghan G. Hansen attended the CSA-Western Region Symposium at William S. Hart Ranch and Museum in Santa Clarita, California. 

Image 1Western-style shirt worn by William S. Hart in his last movie Tumbleweeds (1925).


Regional symposia are a great way for members of our large region – which spans eight western states and portions of Canada up to Alaska, as well as Hawaii and Guam—to gather and share research, collections, activities, and fun. Members and non-members presented nine papers on a wide range of topics – 19th century haute couture, theatrical costume history, non-Western dress, historical reenactment, and historic Hollywood costume. No matter what your fashion/costume/dress passion, there was a paper just for you!

The Symposium was organized by Deidre Thieman, CSA-WR Education Chair and Manager of NBC Universal Archives, and hosted by the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum. Much to our delight, Beth Werling, History Curator of the Natural History Museum, prepared a display of a sampling of their clothing collection. We played “Real vs. Reel,” during which attendees were asked which piece was authentic historic clothing and which was film costume. Some highlights included a hat owned by Thomas Jefferson, donated to the Natural History Museum by Henry E. Huntington; an Elizabethan headdress worn by Mary Pickford in the 1924 film, Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall; and the costume and accompanying shadow worn by Betty Bronson in Peter Pan (1924), designed by Howard Greer.

Image 2Headdress worn by Mary Pickford in the 1924 film, Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall.

The tour of the Hart Mansion on Saturday afternoon revealed the distinctive, and sometimes eccentric, personality of William S. Hart, Hollywood film star and lover of the American West. Hart was a successful film actor from 1915 and through the early 1920s. He starred in many western films of the silent movie era, most often appearing astride his brown and white pinto, Fritz. According to Margi Bertram, Administrator of the Hart Museum, Fritz was the actor’s best friend. The upper story of the mansion was even designed to allow Fritz to enter Hart’s bedroom. The woodwork throughout is painted with motifs from Native American blankets, and the walls are filled with western-themed artwork, including original illustrations of Fritz performing his film stunts.

Image 4
Spiral staircase in the entrance of Hart Mansion.

Image 5Margi Bertram leading a tour for symposium attendees through Hart’s living room.

Finally, symposium attendees were able to experience Hart’s impact on costume, film and the arts through screening his final film, Tumbleweeds (1925), with live accompaniment performing an original score.

No matter where you live, CSA members and non-members are invited to attend events throughout the country. The National Symposium is being held in Atlanta this week, and you can check out the Costume Society of America website for national and regional events. The next event hosted by CSA-Western Region will be a tour of the exhibit Colors of the Oasis: Central Asia Ikats on July 14, 2012 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, organized by FIDM Museum’s own Rachel Harris.

Image 6Meghan Hansen with reenactment actor costumed as Hart’s hero from Tumbleweeds.


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