Nelson Provincial Museum collection of women's dress
Prior to this study, garments held in the general collection at The Nelson Provincial Museum were a collection of numbered and labelled objects, boxed and stored in shelving in an air-conditioned storeroom along with many other like items. The garments sat in isolation from the culture within which they were produced, worn, altered and discarded. Yet these garments provided a direct link to the past. Through the analysis of settlement-phase women's European clothing from a clothing and textile sciences viewpoint, and the investigation and interpretation of cultural and social history information, a picture of life in the colony of Nelson during the settlement period has been developed. The aim of this research was to study dress as evidence of material culture. Primary sources used were housed predominantly in the Nelson region and extensive use was made of the rich source of archival and documentary material at The Nelson Provincial Museum Research Facility in the library and archives, and photographic collection. The multi-faceted research approach taken was to increase the level of academic scholarship, enhance both the interpretation and preservation of the artefacts, establish the artefacts as a direct link to Nelson's past, and facilitate public understanding and enjoyment of the collection through the production of a body of work which had the potential to form the foundation for an exhibition at the museum. The aim was to present information that was balanced, authentic and consistent by consulting primary sources where possible, and evaluating the information gathered from each source. The research methods chosen largely overcame biases introduced by each of the sources. The sample of eighteen artefacts was made up of dresses, bodices and skirts ranging in date from c1830 to c1910, these were worn by some of the first women immigrants to New Zealand. Artefacts were visually examined to describe in detail the object (physical properties, fabric and trim detail, construction methods, alterations and physical condition). Data sheets were developed for recording and coding descriptive data, which was then used for statistical analysis. The photographic collection at The Nelson Provincial Museum was used to establish agreement in dates for garment styles and to illustrate the study. The provenance of each artefact was expanded and donors, or donor families, interviewed where possible. The garments in the study were found to be similar in style, made of similar fabrics, and were constructed using the same methods as those made and worn through the period 1830 to 1910, as identified in previous studies. Until this study was undertaken, the provenance and donor information could not be found in one location, was not verified or complete. Each object had very little, if any, provenance information associated with it. The lives of those people involved in the history of the garments were explored; each object has been placed in an historical setting. The technological developments of the period, as they affected the textile and garment industry in New Zealand, Europe and the United States, and impacted on individuals, has also been discussed.
Advisor: Laing, Raechel; Smith, Catherine
Degree Name: Master of Consumer and Applied Sciences
Degree Discipline: Clothing and textiles
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis