Upon entering 514 Broadway for the first time, the curators knew the house contained a great story, many stories in fact. Clues lay around them. In order to sort out the stories, they had to sort out the objects in the house. Because Dr. Louis Cella, Jr. was offering the museum items from the remains of the dress shop his mother and aunt had run in the house for decades, the curators concentrated their efforts there.

First, they made a complete inventory of everything found in the shop. Because an inventory enumerates and describes everything being looked at, it might contain entries as different as:

  • 20 sewing needles
  • Cherry & Webb Co. brochure, 1925 Fall/Winter
  • 10 round bone buttons, _" in diameter

There were thousands of items in the shop rooms, including many business records as well as garments, textile pieces, notions and trims [e.g., buttons and ribbons], perfume bottles, linens, and accessories, such as handbags. It took the curators a year to inventory the entire contents of the shop. The paper materials alone came to total 18 cubic feet, including business correspondence, client letters, employee pay books, client books and bills, suppliers’ bills and receipts, programs from couture showings, promotional materials from vendors, photographs, household bills, and personal correspondence.

After the curators removed the donated items to the museum, they used their inventory lists as a starting point to create catalogue records. These computer databases contained fuller descriptions than the abbreviated notations on the inventories.

For example, a piece of fabric that might have been described on the inventory as "Length of silk in Chiné style, 102" x 40"," would have the following basic description in the data base: "Length of silk, white ground printed in Chiné style with floral pattern in orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and brown." The database record would also record information about the technique of the weave; the vendor; the country from which the fabric was imported; its catalogue number and location in the museum’s collection; and any miscellaneous information that might be associated with this piece of fabric. The record would also contain photographs of the fabric and of any descriptive shop tags that might have been attached to it.

Databases were also created for client, employee, and vendor records. After the paper, or archival, records were filed and stored, an archivist created an index and finding aid to help the curators locate a particular record quickly and easily.

All of this cataloguing work was necessary so that the curators could begin to see the big picture.

[ printable version ]


   Sources and Methods
      Personal Papers
      Public Records
      Libraries & Collections
      Oral Histories
   The People
   The Business
   Custom Dressmaking



The Databases collect and make available information from the Tirocchi cataloging efforts.