Round Up

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Lobby at the Museum of Art, BYU, with Gabriel Dawes’ ‘Plexus’ installation.  An inspiring setting for my presentation at the Branding the American West symposium, March 2016.

I fly back to Manchester tomorrow after a very productive and adventuresome trip to Utah.  I’ve learned all sorts of lessons and met some interesting people.  I have had my faith restored through the friendliness I’ve encountered along the way as well as the loveliness of the natural landscape that has been the backdrop to my travels.

The main purpose of my trip has been academic.  The Branding the American West conference at the Museum of Art (MoA), BYU, has more than outstripped my expectations.  Every paper I attended was well delivered, well constructed, well researched.  I once heard that the secret to a good presentation – and the secret to a good reception – was simply to show an audience that their time and attendance was valued.  Being prepared and evidencing effort, constructing an argument, showing care and thought in what is argued, then, serves the idea that an audience wishes to be – and is – appreciated by the speaker (and, no doubt, vice versa). This sentiment was played out at the MoA conference in spades (or should that be copper miners’ shovels, I wonder?)

Janalee Emmer, Director of Education at the Museum, and conference organiser had put together a carefully curated programme of speakers.  My two panel mates, Sonya Abrego and Caroline Jean Fernald, formed the perfect complement to my own presentation on dude ranch clothing in the Thirties.  Sonya, with a recently-earned doctorate from my old stamping ground in NYC, the Bard Graduate Center, switched the focus to the 40s and 50s with a detailed discussion of Western clothing brands (think Wranglers and Levi’s) and their use of cattle brand hieroglyphics.  Her argument was illustrated with some super examples, including a  denim line for children by Lee, which sold pint-sized jeans with a blank leather patch on the back left pocket ready to be scorched in-store with a personalised name (how I’d like some of those!).   Caroline, Director of the Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, New Mexico, focused on Native American objects as tourist artefacts and showed us photographs of holiday-maker Albert Einstein (no less) during visits to the West on the Santa Fe railroad.

It’s both difficult and a little unfair to pick out highlights from the symposium.  I enjoyed Phil Deloria’s (University of Michigan) keynote speech on Western branding, in which he proposed the mythologizing process to be as much about ‘Westing’ the brand (as branding the West).  His talk took me back to my doctoral thesis and my own past work on Britishness and branding and the commodification of national identity (refer to my book, The National Fabric).  Leo Mazow from the Universiy of Arkansas rounded off the first day’s programme with a tour de force, ending his presentation on Thomas Benton and Edward Hopper with a 10-song guitar and vocal performance. Surely every conference should include a singing professor?  The conference banquet was held in the University’s ‘Skyroom’, a viewing gallery set on the top floor of the Student’s Union building, with awesome views of a setting sun over the Wasatch range.  We marvelled at the scenery whilst dining from enamel plates with bandana napkins, channelling the chuck wagon and chowing down (to use the vernacular).

Day two of the conference served up the opportunity to hear from the curators of the MoA’s latest exhibition, also titled ‘Branding the American West: Paintings and Films 1900-1950’, which is a collaboration between BYU and the Stark Museum in Orange, Texas.  We were treated to a panel discussion with the essayist contributors to the exhibition catalogue, too.  As a result, I am much more knowledgeable about the works of those Western painters such as Maynard Dixon, Frederic Remington and the Taos School (and was honoured to view the originals in the excellent exhibition curated by Marian Wardle and Sarah Boehme).  And I was introduced, too, to artists unknown to me such as the Mormon painter, Minerva Teichert, with her signature delicate and ethereal style.

There is more to attending a conference than simply turning up or to ‘scoring’ a presentation point to put on a CV.  Finding out about other academics and their work – and learning from them is an enriching process.  But, so too, are the enrichments from the unexpected or unscheduled experiences.  During my visit, a group of us went up into the mountains to dine at Sundance Ranch (of film festival and Robert Redford fame) and marvelled at the floodlit ski runs replete with their after-dark skiers swooshing dramatically into the night.  I was also invited by the director of the Redd Center for the American West (Brian Cannon) at BYU to go on a tour of Provo Canyon and was delighted to have the opportunity to see Bridal Veil Falls in snow.  And, after the conference concluded on Saturday afternoon, I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to catch a lift into Salt Lake City for the renowned live broadcast (the longest running continuous radio broadcast in history) of ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ at the Mormon Tabernacle.  My trip to Utah?  Stirring in both mind and spirit.

 

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The Sweet Smell of Scholarship

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Chetham’s Library, Manchester, founded 1653.  An inspiring location for a Research Away Day, Jan 2016.

With its dark skies, short days and cold temperatures, the month of January can be a bit of a challenge.  Yet brightness and hope were in abundance yesterday at the Apparel Research Cluster Leaders’ Away Day.  Five of us (myself included, along with my Associate Dean of Research and the trusty Cluster Leaders: Prabu, Shuyu and Kathy) were ‘away’ on the other side of Manchester city centre at Chetham’s School of Music.  Our purpose was to discuss strategy and tactics for the continuing development of the Apparel Research Group, which I head up.  We did this by thinking about short and long term goals, assigning tasks (the key to leadership is delegation, right?), planning some future research events, listening to, and learning from, an invited critical friend (the inspiring Professor Martyn Evans from our School of Art) and also, importantly, spending time with each other in a fresh, and therefore, stimulating environment.

And, what an environment Chetham’s proved to be!  I had booked The Audit Room for our meeting, which is part of a complex of Medieval Buildings arranged around a cloistered courtyard and immaculately manicured formal parterre.  The Audit Room boasted a view of the Cathedral as well as its own timbered ceiling replete with grotesque carvings.  Our day’s discussions, then, were overseen by a carved Mouth of Hell mask, which adorned the ceiling, and depicted a sinner being ingested in its grisly jaws.  Stirring stuff, indeed!

Why the blog entry?  Well, in answer to that, our day included an archive element.  At lunchtime, I had arranged for us to have a tour of the famous Chetham’s Library (founded in 1653), located just upstairs from us.  What a sensory experience!  As we ascended the staircase, the smell of thousands of books, centuries-old, was all pervading.  History is perfumed with an intoxicating, and not unpleasant, mustiness.  Raking winter sun shone through the leaded windows.  And, best of all, we were permitted to handle some of the books from the collection dating from the seventeenth century.  Fergus, the curator, kindly selected some books on ecclesiastical and national dress, richly illustrated with etched drawings on linen rag paper.  The Reading Room, where we viewed these, was furnished with artefacts from the 1650s.  On the wall, was an elaborate heraldic and emblematic display commemorating Humphrey Chetham and his foundation.  Fittingly for us, as research-driven visitors to Chetham’s, this tympanum bore books and torches, symbolic of learning, as well as a cockerel to suggest hard work.  Surely, a good omen for the new year and new academic term ahead?

Architectural and archival wonderment aside, did our Away Day prove productive in terms of our work-related objectives?  I believe so, and I sign off here with some of the research advice, generously shared with us yesterday by Professor Evans, ringing most melodically in my ears:

1.Know ‘who’ you are as a researcher or research cluster.  Know what you do, do what you do, and do it well.

2. Don’t be a ‘one hit wonder’ and flit from unrelated project to project. Establish a specialism and maintain a track record in a particular research area.  Articulate the narrative between your research interests.

3. Don’t be a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’.  Bring research and teaching together as closely as possible, even if the fit isn’t perfect.

4. Publicise your research through networking and use social media to ‘get it out there’.  Communication of your research is needed both internally to university colleagues and to the world beyond.

5. Be clear about knowing ‘when you’ve got there’.  How will you recognise the fulfilment of your goals and aims.  What will you do when you’ve reached them?

 

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Alison in the archives. Handling hatpins in The Hatworks stores, October 2015

Alison in the archives. Handling hatpins in The Hat Works stores, October 2015

Sometimes academic life is not so bad: last Friday afternoon being a classic case in point.  The perfect end to a busy, and at times irksome, week came in the form of a welcome and energising archive visit to my ‘local’ treasure trove: the Hat Works museum, just around the corner from where I live in the leafy suburbs of Stockport.  I must say I have a great fondness for this particular museum, housed in a seven and a half storey mill building from the 1830s replete with 200 foot chimney.  Indeed, the site and setting is nothing short of awesome, cast in the shadow of a towering Victorian viaduct (which Google informs me is the largest brick-built structure in Western Europe).  And it is also able to boast the Plaza Super Cinema and Variety Theatre, a bedazzling 1930s art deco jewel-of-a-place, as a near neighbour, too.  Central Stockport, dear reader, is certainly worth a second glance.

As the name suggests, The Hat Works, is all about hats.  In fact, it’s about a lot more than hats and offers a social history of the City, its industrial past and the people who populated it.  The museum, its holdings and its excellent programme of outreach activities have been instrumental in bolstering my interest in hatting and millinery: interests both professional and personal.  Alongside my work-related research (and an instance, perhaps, of life imitating art?), hat-making has become a new hobby for me – an obsession, even – since taking several Hat Works’ classes on blocking, veiling and trimming (with, I hasten to add, varying creative results).

My most recent visit to the Hat Works took me to the off-site storage facility to meet with a couple of the brilliant and ever-inspiring Collections staff (Hannah, whose blog about life as a curatorial trainee is documented here, and Collections Access Officer, Bronwen).  We met to discuss plans for a forthcoming temporary exhibition (titled ‘Hats Amazing’, opening in late November 2015), which, thrillingly, I had been invited to contribute a small offering of content.  I’ve used the forthcoming exhibition as a springboard to develop my object-related work on hatpins and the fascinating social history that surrounds these seemingly inconsequential items.  To that end, I spent the afternoon photographing and recording over sixty assorted hatpins from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, as held in The Hat Works collection. One of my tasks was to measure the length of the objects as, intriguingly, the history of hatpins has a ‘dark side’.  Hat pins were a source of injury, both accidental and murderous.  Blades of twelve inches (and more) provided women with handy methods of self-defence on the perilous streets of nineteenth century cities. Hatpins were also used, on occasion, as offensive weapons, too (and were favoured as plot devices by crime fiction writers of the Conan Doyle oeuvre).   The following extract from a most curious and compelling lead article in The Chicago Sunday Tribune, dated 16th September 1900, hints at the richness – and significance – of hatpin history, showing how hatpins may open up avenues of historical import to do with women’s rights, domestic violence, urban street life and culture, gendered media reporting and the social and criminal justice of/for women.  The article includes a table of ‘things women used as weapons’, collated from a twelve-month period of Chicago police records.  Hatpins were recorded in 55 police incidents, behind ‘broom handles’, ‘table knives’, ‘stove-led lifters’, ‘rolling pins’ and ‘plates and dishes’.  The article elaborates thus:

Of the emergency weapons for the street, the hatpin leads by all odds.  It was used fifty-five times in the last year and no one will question its effectiveness in any emergency.  It is dramatic in its possibilities.  It is the American stiletto and it has the advantage over the Italian weapon in that it has not yet been classed with concealed weapons.  As an article of dress it is not well adapted to use.  It is destructive to hat and hair alike but its readiness as a weapon promises  to keep it in the dresser of every boudoir.  West Side police still talk of a hat pin duel between women  a few years ago, in which one of the contestants was stabbed deeply in the neck. Only a few weeks ago a young woman, named Mary Rilley, attacked Sergeant Timothy Cullinan with a hat pin as he stood at the desk of the East Chicago Avenue Station.  Only the prompt interference of a patrolman standing near saved him.  All of this goes to show that if women are not discriminating fighters at all times, they are at least versatile in their choice of weapons.

And so my ‘investigations’ continue…

Gore Blimey!

Speaking a thousand words... Title slide from International Conference of Historical Geographers at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, July 2015

Speaking a thousand words… Title slide from presentation to the International Conference of Historical Geographers at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, July 2015

Last month, and getting in touch with my geographical roots, I returned to the ‘mother ship’ that is the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) at Kensington Gore in London.  The occasion was the International Conference of Historical Geographers (ICHG), an enormous 5 day-long gathering with a 40 year pedigree.  The logistics involved in organising a conference on the scale of the ICHG are almost unfathomable.  Near on 700 delegates, 60% of whom travelled to Kensington Gore from overseas, were in attendance.  The conference booklet (which detailed the abstracts of all the presentations) was the size of a telephone directory.  Following in the footsteps of Darwin and Livingstone, it seems that present day geographers who frequent the RGS remain up for a challenge.  I refer here to the sticks of Brighton Rock supplied in our complimentary conference goodie bags, which were not for ingestion by the faint hearted (or, for that matter, by the weak toothed).

I delivered my paper, on ‘Dressing For The Dude Ranch In 1930s America’, as part of the programme comprising the ‘Materiality and Historical Geography’ session.  The session presented me with a well-timed opportunity to test out some of the themes and ideas I had encountered during my Buckskin and Ballgowns project at the Autry museum archives in LA only a month or so prior.  I found room in my allocated 15 minute presentation slot to include some of my blogged-about findings on denim and divorce ranches.  I also forwarded my thesis: that the dude ranch vacation of the 1930s was not only about holiday makers dressing up as their wild west idols but that it was also a space in which a novel cult of dressing down was emergent.  Being short on time, I made full use of the opportunity to illustrate my paper with supporting images, and showed off the rich – and sometimes just plain amusing – visual sources I’d been working with out in Los Angeles.  A picture, after all, is able to speak a thousand words.  And there is no greater truth when it comes to the ‘hit and run’ scheduling of an academic conference.

Many years ago, as a doctoral student, my PhD supervisor assured me that only good things could come of delivering a conference paper.  Today, I remain convinced that conferences are worth the effort, or efforts (including those labours that involve searching for the funds to support travel and attendance; actually having something relevant to say; and, mustering the courage to set oneself up in front of peers).  One of the ‘good things’ relates less to one’s own work and more to others’.  I was thrilled and delighted to share a stage with some other academics working in my broad area (for example, Merle Patchett on the study of incomplete or half-made historical objects, and Bethan Bide on repaired clothing held by the Museum of London).  But I was equally thrilled and delighted to engage with subjects outside of my area, too (the BBC 2LO transmitter and the InterCity125 train among them).

Also ‘good’ was the Society’s close proximity to Exhibition Road and, especially, to the Victoria and Albert Museum.  After my conference session, I hot-footed it (stick of rock and all) to the V&A’s Savage Beauty/McQueen ‘blockbuster’ show, which lived up to all of its rave reviews.  Even in its final few days, the exhibition was jam-packed (and possibly even over-stuffed) with visitors taking in the awesome theatrics of it all.  Viewing McQueen’s work tout ensemble was a reminder of just how influential his designs were (and remain), not only conceptually, but also on the more commercial world of the everyday wardrobe, impacting everything from hipsters to peplums.  I also managed to squeeze in a late-entry ticket to the new ‘Shoes: Pleasure and Pain’ exhibition, which is bound to be as equally enticing a draw card.  But just one thing: explain to me, V&A, why no inclusion of podiatry or orthopaedics?

Good things, so the saying goes, are threefold. Thirdly and finally, then, I returned home from my adventures in London to find a copy of my latest publication on the doormat.  Good things, in this particular case, come in brown cardboard packaging from Routledge.  [Click here for book details – noting chapter 3 in particular].

The Final Frontier

The 'Singing Cowboy' himself, overseeing my daily research activities as the Viva Foundation Fellow 2015 at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, LA.

The ‘Singing Cowboy’ himself, overseeing my daily research activities as the Viva Foundation Fellow 2015 at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, LA.

Four weeks at the Autry have zipped by in a flash.  And a couple of days ago I gave my ‘Research Frontiers’ lunchtime presentation to co-workers and colleagues at the museum as the culmination of my ‘Buckskin and Ballgowns’ study.  ‘Research Frontiers’ is a programme of seminars delivered by the various Fellows hosted at the Autry each year and it offers an opportunity for permanent staff to learn about what the temporary visiting scholars have been up to – and celebrate them, their endeavours but, most importantly, the depth and diversity of their own, grand, collection.

I spent a couple of afternoons preparing for my hour in the sun (so to speak), and enjoyed pulling together my disparate notes, scribblings and thoughts into (what I hope) was a coherent whole.  As ever, once I’d summoned my energies and efforts to crank up my laptop (and my brain), the content of my PowerPoint presentation just grew and grew.  It’s not until such moments of enforced review and reflection that one realises just how much archive material has been collected, and noted, and dealt with.  I’ve (almost unknowingly) covered a lot of ground these past few weeks.  What’s more, preparing a seminar is a really useful step in the analytical process because it requires the researcher to take up a new position in their project, having both proximity to and distance from their work.  The close reading, deep focus and utter absorption of solitary days in the archive are usefully punctuated by the ‘going public’ that a presentation brings.  There’s an important shift of gear as one has to serve an external audience rather than a lone, internal, voice.  Putting it another way, having to explain the significance and importance of a ‘find’ or ‘finding’ to make sense to someone else assists, I think, in moving a project along to the next levelIt is, as the saying goes, ‘good to talk’.  My final presentation consisted of 40 slides and mapped out the key themes I’ve been conjuring with these last few days and weeks.  And while there’s a long way to go, those 40 slides present maybe the bare bones, or just the merest whiff, of a more formal piece of writing such as a journal article or chapter.  The exercise certainly got me working with, and using, the material I’ve been busy collecting in the archive.  And that raises an important point about research, particularly of the type with which I’m concerned.  I can ‘slam dunk’ as much archive material as I desire (and by that I mean looking at, and recording, folder upon folder of archive documents and texts: tagging them, labelling them, coding them for future use once I get back to Manchester and my workaday routine).  But it doesn’t really count a jot unless I write up those records and notes into fully fledged, theorised, prose and get my interpretation of them ‘out there’.  Research has to be released from the hard drive, the notebook and the memory card.  And that process of release is the tough part because it requires saying something meaningful, slogging it out at the computer keyboard and running the gauntlet of peer review (among other things).  A dose of courage and conviction is required for this stage of the academic process.  Cups of tea are also very helpful.

Happy memories of California will warm my cockles if the going gets as tough as I suggest above.  For there have, of course, been highlights here at the Autry (or, perhaps more accurately, a small but satisfying inching forward of progress).  These small pleasures add up to a splendid whole.  The leathery smell of Helen Ruth Zeigler’s 1930s cow skin chaps, for example, as I (the first visiting researcher to do so) examined them fresh from the storage freezer.  The gasp-out-loud moment as a dozen tissue-y neck scarves were unfurled, in turn, from their bespoke roller casings, revealing dazzlingly-preserved crimson, orange and gold printed silk.  There was even a glorious moment in the permanent exhibit as I happened upon none other than Champion The Wonder Horse’s bridle.  But perhaps most memorable will be the enthusiasm and encouragement from my Autry co-workers, who provided expertise, kindness and companionship on the long trail through ‘Archive Country’.  And what a pleasant and scenic place that particular country has proven to be this last while.  One of the dude ranch vacation brochures from the Autry collection that I’ve been working on  likened a trip to rural Montana as being ‘Big Medicine’ back in the 1930s.  Some 85 years or so later, my own trip ‘Out West’ has similarly proven a true fillip.

Plugging The Gap

The term 'stable mates' can be taken literally when visiting Middleburg, VA, the horse and hunt centre of the USA.  My very cosy guest accommodation was in 'Lauderdale's Box', adjacent to a stable block full of fine horses.  They made magnificent 'neigh-bours'!

The term ‘stable mates’ can be taken literally when visiting Middleburg, VA, the horse and hunt centre of the USA. My very cosy guest accommodation in March 2014 was in ‘Lauderdale’s Box’, adjacent to a stable block full of fine horses. And, yes, they made magnificent ‘neigh-bours’!

Blogs, and the digital world in general, are concerned, mostly, with the ‘here and now’ or the ‘what ifs’ of the future.  The Net is about immediacy, the present and, also, the possibilities of tomorrow.  It is slightly incongruous, and perhaps somewhat remiss on my part, then, to delve backwards. But!  Go back, I will…just this once.

This blog entry is about playing catch up and reporting news from the past.  Am I ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’?  I hope not.  Well, not entirely.  There are a couple of highlights from last year, back in 2014, that are worth recording and relate fairly squarely to the premise of my blog: that is, to communicate about my research travels and archive visits, particularly to, and in, the States. I was lucky enough to make three trips to the US last year:

1. The first, as regular followers of The Style Stakes will know only too well, was my 3-month long fellowship at the Bard Graduate Center, NYC. And I recorded those adventures in detail in my several blog entries below.  An overview of my research project at the Bard is here.

2.  Only a couple of months later, in March 2014, I found myself on another Trans-Atlantic flight, this time headed to Washington DC, and, to my ultimate destination of Middleburg, Virginia.  I was thrilled to have accepted an invitation back to my old ‘stamping ground’ of the National Sporting Library and Museum (NSL&M).  The museum was hosting a symposium on side-saddle riding to accompany the ‘Riding Aside By the Book’ exhibition. I gave a lecture (titled, ‘Mad Caps and Mannequins: Equestrian Fashion in the NSL&M Collection’) in the splendid surroundings of the Founder’s Room, bedecked (the room, not I) with equestrian treasures, paraphernalia and artworks.  Whilst there, it was also very satisfying to be able to present the NSL&M with a freshly-published book from Routledge that featured a chapter (‘A Dashing, Positively Smashing Spectacle’) I’d written on some of the glorious holdings in their collection.  The NSL&M have been very supportive of my work ever since I was a Daniels Fellow with them in 2011.  The staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, generous and wonderfully hospitable, and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with them again.  Along with the symposium, I was able to squirrel a couple of days in their archives during my trip and I seized the opportunity to do more work with the specialist collections on riding, horses and sport.  And, while I was in ‘the stacks’ (the book storage area) I couldn’t help but take a few precious moments to revisit some of the holdings that, years ago, kick-started my writing on spectator dress and side saddle attire.  There’s a good deal of ‘pilgrimage’ in archive work.  For example, I couldn’t help but check up on Lucy Linn’s riding scrapbook from the late 1930s and 1940s (and the photographs therein were as captivating as ever, depicting her thundering, side-saddle, over the jumps in full formal ‘turn-out’ complete with top hat).  It seems that old friends come in many guises in a museum collection, be they human, artefact or text.

3. Another Stateside expedition came along in October of last year (yes, ‘the Fall’, to use the vernacular).  I was asked by Bucknell University and the Samek Art Gallery in Pennsylvania to deliver a public lecture as part of the programming for their Country Living exhibition.  I spoke about rural dress, made reference to some of my past projects that have looked at the branding of rural identity, and gave a response to the excellent exhibition.  Andy Warhol lived in Pennsylvania, so the gallery is fortunate enough to have some stellar bequests, and Warhols were mixed, cheek-by-jowl, with rusting barn stars, seed sacks and RedWing boots to challenge visions, and versions, of country life (and the exhibition catalogue is accessible here).  As well as working with the gallery, I was also able to go along to a couple of undergraduate classes and I lectured to costume design and to geography students during my visit.  It was Hallowe’en and autumn leaves, pumpkin displays and mellow sunshine formed a picturesque backdrop to my travels. Suffice to say, my experience was well worth the eight hour coach trip, replete with tyre blowout and missed connections, into deepest Pennsylvanian countryside. After all, being an academic, as with most things in life, is as much about the journey as the destination, is it not?

Swashbucklin’ In Brooklyn

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Sunny days at the Brooklyn Museum. More archives, more Hawes…

Taking inspiration from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals song title, I have been summoning my inner buccaneer of late with a couple of research visits to Brooklyn Museum (and more planned on my itinerary after the Thanksgiving Holidays).  In some ways, the Brooklyn collection is ‘the big one’ in Elizabeth Hawes terms (although it seems crass to compare archive with archive since they all are treasure troves [enough with the pirate metaphor, already!]).

Even though I’d done my homework prior to my trip (which involved some hand-wringingly anxious moments negotiating access to the research library at the museum, which is currently in a state of construction and off limits to most visitors), I wasn’t quite prepared for the dizzying volume of Hawes-related holdings that awaited my arrival.  I had asked to view the Hawes ‘scrapbook’ collection as a starting point (I haven’t yet set eyes on the Hawes sketchbook collection, also held at Brooklyn, which promises another tsunami of source material).  My jaw positively dropped when I was faced with a trolley loaded high with leather-bound ledgers, each approximately A2 in size, and weighing a significant amount also.  It was necessary to engage the help of a museum volunteer to load each ledger into a cradle in order to support the fragile pages as I carefully and systematically worked my way through the content.  And these ledgers, the original Hawes press books from the 1930s, were crammed with content: ad after ad after ad. It was utterly bewitching and bewildering in equal measure.  This was Hawes print advertising numbering in its thousands – all of it brilliant in terms of pitch and pithiness (repro rights debar me from citing any of it here, unfortunately).

It was just as well that the content of the press books was mesmerising.  Yes, I did gasp (sotto voce since I was in a library) as I turned some of the pages.  The actual signed letters to Hawes from Vionnet, Schiaperelli, Patou, Louiseboulanger, Mainbocher and Chanel were a complete surprise that made my standing at a book cradle solidly for over five hours wholly rewarding.  What did I learn from my visits?  One of the lessons was that, along with the buckling of swash, archive work also requires a good helping of old fashioned stamina.