History on the move: More than 12,000 clothing artifacts find a new home at new Colorado State University Center for the Arts

Note to Editors: Reporters who would like to take photographs or video of the collection’s move should contact Dell Rae Moellenberg to make arrangements.

In a massive and coordinated effort, more than 12,000 artifacts of history will be carefully packed in acid-free paper, nestled in boxes and moved Thursday, July 10, from the Gifford Building on Colorado State University’s main campus to the University Center for the Arts. The artifacts make up the university’s Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, which includes fragile textiles, accessories and clothing pieces, some dating back 2,000 years.

The $2.3 million collection’s new home will provide more space including a gallery for the thousands of pre-Columbian textiles, Civil War era hoop skirts and men’s jackets, Geisha shoes, elaborate fans and hats, beaded flapper dresses, hand-made lace and famous designer apparel.

Carefully stored in a temperature and humidity controlled room in their existing home, the artifacts are protected by a complex system of drawers and cabinets. White gloves are required for handling the items.

The collection’s new digs at the University Center for the Arts will offer easier access for experts, students and visitors to study the collection and will make it easier for the curator of 20 years, Linda Carlson, to care for each artifact. The new facility will provide museum space with state-of-the-art lighting standards, controlled humidity and temperature, expanded storage and increased security. The move doubles the storage space for the collection.

Among the jewels of the collection are 19th and 20th century Western clothing; designer dresses from Mr. Blackwell, Arnold Scaasi, Carolina Herrera and Calvin Klein; textiles such as a collection of lace valued at more than $140,000; a collection of more than 500 Japanese kimono; accessories such as shoes, hats and bags; and 20 chairs, the newest collecting area of interest.

Many of the items have a story attached to them.

"A number of years ago, a donor brought in a box of family artifacts, explaining that there was no family member with whom to leave the artifacts," Carlson said. "Her story was fascinating: Her great-great-great grandfather was a Frenchman who was caught up in the turmoil of the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century and was forced to flee Paris. He hid in a cave, made his way to England then to the United States, where he eventually established himself as an importer of French ribbons and millinery goods. A beautiful red wool cape that was among the garments she offered had belonged to her great grandmother – the Frenchman’s granddaughter – Charlotte de la Chappelle. In a letter that the donor shared with me, Charlotte wrote about watching Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train roll by."

A young mother, de la Chappelle died of cholera contracted from returning soldiers of the Civil War.

To move the collection, each item will be wrapped in acid-free paper and placed in archival-quality boxes. The storage cabinets for each object must be moved. Dozens of large, museum-quality storage cabinets must be wedged into an elevator, along with about 100 drawers, and transported out of the building and re-installed in the new space. Then each must be reassembled, cleaned and filled again with artifacts.

The collection is under the constant, careful watch of Carlson. On a rotating schedule, each folded piece is removed, re-folded in a different configuration to prevent fiber cracking along fold lines, then returned to drawers in a reverse order so that no object is consistently under the weight of other artifacts. No food or drink is allowed near the collection, and if researchers looking at an item wish to take notes, they must do so with a pencil and not a pen. White cotton gloves must be worn at all times when an object is examined.

The collection is the only one of its kind in the region that allows hands-on access to study textiles under controlled conditions.