I’ve had several people ask how I store and manage my collection, so today’s post is devoted to the working side of collecting. You have to keep in mind that I’m a collector, not a museum, but I do the best I can to preserve the items in my care. What I do is far from perfect, but I’m always looking for ways to improve.
First, a few details about what is in the collection. I have almost 1000 items of clothing, shoes, hats, handbags and other accessories. The oldest items are around 100 years old, and the newest are about 40 years old. There are very few items made from fur as it requires a more complicated storage for which I’m not equipped.
I store my collection in a late Victorian cottage we own. It is not ideal, as there is no air conditioning. It is heated and has humidity controls, and we are very careful about pest control. I use two rooms that are quite dark, and in addition I have shades on the small windows that further block the light.
Most of the clothing is stored by hanging. There are two large closets that allow for quite a bit of hanging garments. The closet here actually has a second rack behind the one you can see. The colored boxes are full of shoes.
All items are hung on padded hangers for which I’ve made muslin covers. After hanging the garment I then cover it with a cover that I’ve made from muslin or from white pillowcases. I try to find unused ones at thrift stores.
Knits and fragile items are stored either flat or folded with padding. Each is stored in its own muslin or linen cloth envelope. I store these in old hatboxes that have been sprayed with an acid neutralizer. Inside each box is a list of the contents. I’m working toward acquiring acid free flat boxes, but they are very expensive.
I always have a piece or two on display just for inspiration. I switch these out quite often.
Once the collection started growing, I realized I had to have a system that would make it easier to find items when I needed them. I also needed to be recording the details of each item. I came up with a number system, based on the estimated year of manufacture. I limited the system to every 5 years, so items are dated 1917, 1922, 1927 and so on. There is a number for type of item, such as 1 for clothing, 2 for shoes, 3 for hats, and so on. Then each item is given a numeral in the order acquired.
The card above is for a late 1930s pair of pants. I put a lot of information on the card, including a short description, a condition report, any labels, where and when acquired, and the price paid. On the reverse of the card is other info such as any known provenance. I also put the date of any blog post that I’ve made about the object.
I also keep a notebook for each decade that has a photo of each item, along with the item’s number. I group items together as they might have been worn.
I also include scans of vintage ads that I find of the items, when I’m that lucky.
That is it in a nutshell. If you want to see how far I have to go, you need to view this video of the V&S’s new storage facility. I am humbled!