Global Fashion as a Tool in the Ethnographic Museum

Wessie Ling, Daan Van Dartel

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How does global fashion factor into a reconfiguration of the dress and textile collection in the ethnographic museum, and vice versa? What role do global histories play in reshuffling museum collections at this moment of cultural change? In what ways can global fashion be considered part of the grand global narrative? And to what extent can it be used as a tool in the grand scheme of museum collection, narration, curation and presentation in the ethnographic setting? This article scrutinizes these questions by analyzing the operations of ethnographic museums in diverse and multicultural societies. It uses global fashion as a tool in the conceptual and everyday handling of ethnographic artifacts. Here, global fashion does not point to a stylistic form of dress in a given locality. Indeed, our study expands on the work of Ling and Segre Reinach[1], who determined that fashion-making allows for multiple layers of world encounters involving intriguing cultural dynamics, and applies it to museum operations. The National Museum of World Cultures, the Netherlands, is taken as a case in point, through which archival research findings are analyzed to underpin global histories and explore global fashion as a conceptual framework for museum practice. We conducted qualitative research via an internal workshop on Global Fashion/Narrative in the Ethnographic Museum(Jan 2019) in which sixteen museum curatorial professionals assessed global fashion as a tool for museum practice in an ethnographic setting. The aim of this study is to propose global fashion as an interdisciplinary conceptual framework for museum practice in, but not exclusive to, the dress and textile venues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalZone Moda Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Dec 2019


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