Self-expression on display in Rockwell fashion exhibit

Amber Gallihar

Anne Bissonnette, curator of the Kent State Museum, stands among her late 18th- to early-19th century exhibit “The Age of Nudity.” The exhibit deals with how neo-classical aesthetic impacted fashion during that era. ALLIEY BENDER | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

To Anne Bissonnette, fashion is more than the clothes big name designers will be stuffing models into at the next fashion week in New York.




• Monday and Tuesday: Closed

• Wednesday: 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

• Thursday: 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

• Friday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

• Sunday: Noon to 4:45 p.m.

Bissonnette, a curator at Kent State’s museum, chooses to study late 18th- and early 19th-century styles of hair and clothing in which fashion really began to change into an expression of one’s self. Her interest in fashion began in her childhood, when she began to experiment with sewing.

“I think it’s human behavior to present a certain idea of yourself to the world through fashion,” Bissonnette said.

The Age of Nudity exhibition at the museum is one of three exhibitions Bissonnette is presenting now through the fall.

Bissonnette received degrees in fashion design and science at various schools in her hometown of Montreal. She later went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in art history.

With undergraduate degrees under her belt, Bissonnette went to New York and earned a master’s degree in museum studies from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

After working as assistant conservator at the institute, Bissonnette went on to earn her doctorate in interdisciplinary arts and sciences with a specialization in museum studies and history at the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati.

Bissonnette said she had always wanted to study costume ever since she was a little girl.

“I even made garments for my Barbie,” she said.

Both of her parents were teachers and were always visiting museums, which interested Bissonnette in history.

Curating museums has been Bissonnette’s dream job because she enjoys actually handling the garments, she said.

Bissonnette said she is grateful for her degree in science because it has been very useful when preserving antique garments.

“I am a much stronger curator because of all my past degrees,” she added.

Bissonnette said she tries to organize projects in the Kent State Museum to get more faculty involved. A lot of professors will bring their fashion students into the museum for hands-on examples, especially in the history of costume classes.

After attempting to broaden her horizons by teaching students, Bissonnette decided that education just wasn’t for her.

“I get drained trying to reach students,” she said. “I prefer teaching through tours because what I can bring to this job is more.”

Bissonnette recently received a grant to do more research on late 18th- and early 19th-century fashion in Paris for three weeks in August at the Mus‚e Galliera, Paris’ fashion museum.

Bissonnette also puts together the exhibition Web sites, which are a virtual tour of what one would see by visiting the museum, along with literature on the pieces.

Even after living in the United States for more than 15 years, Bissonnette is reluctant to call this country home. She said she believes the U.S. government does not fund public education appropriately -ÿshe doesn’t think she could have afforded to obtain three degrees in the United States like she did in Canada.

A lot of larger institutions don’t have concurrent exhibitions, while the Kent State Museum has five to seven at any given time.

For more information about Bissonnette’s exhibition and other displays featured at the Kent State museum, visit

Contact colleges of Architecture and Communication and Information reporter Amber Gallihar at [email protected]