Curator recognized for costume exhibitions

Michelle Bender

Photo courtesty of Kent State University Fashion Museum

Credit: DKS Editors

Anne Bissonnette, curator of The Kent State University Museum, recently won the Richard Martin Award for Excellence in the Exhibition of Costume. She received the award for her work on three exhibitions: “Fashion on the Ohio Frontier 1790-1840,” “The Age of Nudity” and “Hair: the Rise of Individuality 1790-1840.”

“I’m not surprised in the least (that she won the award),” said Mary Gray, director of the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery. “She put a lot of time and effort into this.”

Bissonnette’s award is named for Richard Martin, who was a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Fashion Institute of Technology. It recognizes examples of excellence in exhibiting costumes.

Bissonnette describes the moment she found out she won the award as bittersweet. She received the e-mail that she had won the day after her father’s funeral.

“It was like a ray of happiness in a time of great sorrow,” Bissonnette said.

“Fashion on the Ohio Frontier 1790-1840” was an exhibit that included women’s dresses, men’s suits, children’s clothing and shoes from that era. Bissonnette traveled all over Ohio looking and researching the pieces for the exhibit.

“We have really interesting pieces that shows us that fashion was still followed wherever people went,” Bissonnette said, “It became obvious to me there was a story to tell.”

Bissonnette said the show negated the notion that people during that era wore the same clothes until they became rags and never wore finery, another term for fancy attire. She said people brought fine clothing with them from the East Coast and there were a lot of gentlemen farmers.

“The minute I walked in the door, I knew we had to get this exhibition to Columbus,” Gray said.

Another one of Bissonnette’s exhibitions, “The Age of Nudity,” showed the changing ideals of beauty, silhouette, hygiene and the idea of looking naked while clothed.

Bissonnette said she had pieces that included chemises and corsets and men’s undergarments.

“These were the types of historical ideas that we can convey through fashion,” Bissonnette said.

The third exhibition that helped Bissonnette to get the award was “Hair: the Rise of Individuality 1790-1840.” This exhibit educated visitors about different ideals of modernity through hairstyles.

Bissonnette displayed portraits, wigs and even recipes for hair products from that era.

“As a trio of exhibitions, it would make a stronger statement and obviously the fact that we got the award this time around was probably due to that,” Bissonnette said.

Bissonnette said she hopes this award will help people to recognize Kent State’s museum, and she hopes it will help more people to come out to Kent to see the exhibits.

“We hate being the best-kept secret in Ohio,” Bissonnette said.

Contact School of Art reporter Michelle Bender at [email protected].