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
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 museums
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.
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