Another Kansas City museum we visited earlier this year was the Garment District History Museum. It’s currently located in the 800 block of Broadway, in the heart of what was the garment district of the city, but in the coming year will relocate to larger premises in a city cultural park with other museums, but I just couldn’t retain those details as I found myself being rather too generously informed by a female docent with and encyclopedic knowledge garnered over decades of close involvement in the historical society.
Every museum visitor has a slightly different reason for entering and looking around – we always split up and explore museums as individuals, each enjoying our own self-focused approach at our own pace, just sometimes circling back to make sure someone doesn’t miss something special. To me, visiting a museum is a blissful, almost private personal experience. Many good museums, large and small, have wandering knowledgeable docents and security supervisors of whom we are aware, but they keep a discreet if watchful distance, and just sometimes we hope they’ll be able to answer a question or direct us somewhere relevant. I eventually had to escape this lady saying “That’s all so interesting, thank you very much; and now I’d just like to quietly choose and photograph some things to post on my blog.” … walking away before she could renew her invasion of my space. I don’t know why others in our group weren’t paid as much attention as I received, perhaps I was clearly more interested in the garments!
Essentially we spent a couple of interesting hours in the two parts of this very interesting museum. Despite the docent’s strong recommendation, I skipped taking a closer a look at the giant needle and thread sculpture which I could see perfectly well from the entrance … it could have been a great photo op., though, maybe next time.
What is currently on show is just a tiny percentage of the city’s huge collection of garments and accessories, hardly surprising considering that Kansas City’s garment district in its time was second in size and importance only to New York City’s. Quoting from the museum’s website “The Kansas City Museum has one of the largest and best represented collections of clothing materials in the Midwest, including couture gowns, day dresses, uniforms, overalls, shoes, hats, buttons, and everything in between,” Kansas City Museum Director of Collections and Curatorial Services Denise Morrison said. “Additionally, the Museum collection includes examples of many kinds of quilts and coverlets. The enhanced programming opportunities are endless and will strengthen the Museum’s educational impact. We look forward to partnering with other museums and academic institutions to serve students and scholars.”
From what we saw, this is a typical historical society museum, where so often enthusiasm to share and educate generously outbalances good display principles. ( for example, the backdrop to the green dior gown is so unnecessary and quite distracting) However, hopefully in the hands of experienced curators it will soon be presented in more space using modern museum exhibit standards and techniques, where so often ‘less = more’