European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal EFHA World

Introducing EFHA International Symposium 2022: “Wordings”

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The Language of Fashion Heritage

In cultural heritage, words matter. We use them to identify artefacts and the techniques and people they represent; to describe artefacts and their meaning; to reactivate stories, re-evaluate power structures, signal moments of disruption and change. Words are tools to catalogue objects when they enter museum, brand and private collections, and vehicles to deliver ideas and instances embodied by objects to wide and diverse audiences.

Issues regarding language and terminology are at the forefront of today’s political and social debates, in the public arena as well as in museums and archives. This is true in relation to collections of costume, clothing, and accessories, due to fashion’s ability to both establish norms and challenge stereotypes. However, not always fashion objects are contextualised, and their story is hardly told in full by catalogue entries and metadata.

In the last few years, it has become increasingly important for cultural institutions to address biases intrinsic to old cataloguing and other museological practices. Multiple debates have emerged to rethink objects’ institutional definitions and propose new vocabularies to the public. Museums, foundations, and other cultural institutions have started to actively engage with communities and scholars to update biased methods of acquisition and set new standards in cataloguing practices. The goal is to produce more inclusive interpretation to rethink ‘against-the-grain’ permanent collections, as well as employ more complex narratives in temporary physical and digital displays of heritage.

The reconsideration of terminology and establishment of revised thesauri is leading to a more thorough understanding of objects and their cultural as well as natural value, in order to find new ways of shaping narratives and telling stories.

The conference wants to look at words – their social value, the complexities connected to their changing meaning and their historical and cultural context, and their ‘life’ as curatorial tools – in museological practices.

Stay tuned – More info to follow soon!