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Museum Management and Curatorship grad makes news headlines for donation request


img_0216-high-resWhen Fleming College graduate Allison Burnett posted a call for donations for Shelburne County Museum on local community Facebook pages, she never expected to make news headlines. But perhaps that’s because the donations Allison is collecting are for women’s underwear and lingerie from the years 1860 to 1960.

The donations are for Underneath it All – 100 Years of Underwear and Lingerie in North America, 1860 – 1960, an exhibit that will be displayed from June to September at Shelburne County Museum in Nova Scotia. The exhibit was created by the Missouri History Museum and includes interpretive panels with text and pictures, but not artifacts. Allison, who is the Curator at Shelburne County Museum, wanted to add real garments to the exhibit for her upcoming display.

Allison put posters up around town, posted to Facebook groups and pages, and shared information on the local radio station asking people for garment donations from this time period. Quickly, she received a response from news organizations. Since her call for donations, Allison has been interviewed by Halifax radio station “The Rick Howe Show” on 95.7, the BBC, and the CBC.

“I was very surprised when I got an email from the CBC about the exhibit. At that time, I had only put a poster in a Shelburne Facebook group– it turns out that the people at CBC skim small town Facebook groups for news!” she said. “And after I was interviewed by CBC on the radio and for an online article, the other news outlets picked up the story. I thought it was nice that people found the story so interesting.”

Woman’s camisole

Allison said she has received offers from people interested in donating or loaning items, but she is still sorting through the Shelburne County Museum collection to decide what items she will need to borrow from the community, so she has yet to accept any offers.

In the process of curating this exhibit, Allison said she has learned some interesting historical facts. “One thing I wasn’t aware of before is that the billowy shorts-shaped undergarments women used to wear under dresses were actually known as ‘drawers,’” she said. “And until the end of the 1800s, they were generally two separate legs attached at the waist.”

Allison believes the 100-year time span was chosen by the exhibit creators because it demonstrates a broad range of evolving fashion trends and social movements. “Women’s fashions – and, because of that, their underwear – evolved constantly and drastically throughout the century in question,” she said. “And this was closely linked in interesting ways to changing roles for women in society.”

Allison is a graduate of Fleming’s Museum Management and Curatorship program, Class of 2014. She said the skills she gained at Fleming are applicable to her role at Shelburne County Museum, adding, “Because I work at a small museum I do a bit of everything, and almost all of what I do is work I learned about in the program.”

Allison came to Fleming after earning her master’s degree in History. She wanted to gain practical skills to work in museums and wanted to complete a program fast to get into the work world.

“I found the faculty very approachable and helpful, and the class content and applied projects were very applicable to the work that goes on in the field, and left me feeling confident in my abilities in the workplace,” said Allison. “I would definitely recommend the MMC program at Fleming.”