Lindie Ward is a Senior Curator specialising in dress and textiles at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. She was recently in Brisbane to present a lecture and workshop about the Australian Dress Register (ADR), an initiative of Regional Development Services at the Powerhouse Museum. While here, she took some time to record this interview with The Fashion Archives, to tell us about the origins of this pioneering project to record collections of dress around Australia, and to share plans for its future, including a desire to feature more Queensland collections.
Working in collaboration with public and private collectors around the country, the ADR has been able to create a very broad scope: to profile men’s, women’s and children’s clothing with Australian provenance, from early European settlement up until 1975. The result is an impressive cross-section of the types of clothing worn in Australia, ranging from exquisite examples of high fashion, to work uniforms, to everyday garb. It’s a freely accessible website, making Australia’s fascinating dress history available to all.
Museums and historical groups around Australia are increasingly interested in clothes and the important stories they might communicate. This wasn’t always the case, however, and as Lindie explains, many significant national garment collections have been lost or neglected over the years. The Register brings to light the contribution that dress histories have to the telling of national, state and community stories; the big stories of migration, industry, disease, and the more intimate stories of family and domestic life.
The ADR is open to museums and private collectors around the country. They are guided through the complex process of professionally displaying, photographing, and uploading an item to the register. As part of the process, they’re encouraged to research and document evidence of provenance and historical significance. This includes providing detailed descriptions, measurements, community or personal stories, and other corroborating evidence, such as newspaper articles, records, or perhaps a similar garment.
The ADR’s online platform brings national and international attention to dress collections, whilst allowing them to remain physically in their community. Profiling a collection online allows the project to overcome some of the challenges of dress displays. For example, fragile items that are unable to withstand ongoing display are able to be shared permanently online whilst the garment is kept safely in storage.
Along with colleagues Rebecca Pinchin, Kate Chidlow, Sarah Pointon, and Einer Docker, Lindie Ward has been instrumental in developing the ADR, and she talks about its expanding team of contributors nationally, as well as in Queensland.
Published in Issue 12, on April 8, 2014.