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Fashion history for future generations

Europeana Fashion will engage online 22 European museums


The project’s goal is to have a total of 700,000 fashion-related elements in digital form and online by March 2015, helping to preserve European fashion history for future generations.

The project is an offshoot of Europeana, the five-year-old online digital library that showcases images of about 24 million cultural artifacts, including the Mona Lisa and the Gutenberg Bible.

For now, those who go to will find details about the project, a blog about its development, a social corner with Twitter feed and Facebook posts, and a list of fashion-related events around Europe.

Items will include images from fashion shows, catwalks, museum exhibitions and installations in fashion fairs; videos; biographies; blogs; documentation like show invitations, which might be considered works of art in themselves; and articles from newspapers and magazines dating from the 18th century.

Beyond the Web, Europeana Fashion is planning a series of conferences, beginning with “Fashion Industry and the GLAM Community” on April 17 and 18 in Florence, and organizers are considering virtual exhibitions, showcases and a cooperative arrangement with Wikimedia events.

The European Commission provided 80 percent of the total €3.3 million, or $4.4 million, budget through 2015, with the partners’ providing the remainder. The partners have agreed to create a Europeana Fashion Foundation to administer the site and update content after 2015.

Participants come from 12 European countries and include institutions like Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris; ModeMuseum Antwerp, which will provide 100,000 elements; and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The Victoria & Albert Museum intends to contribute about 8,000 catalog records and images, including pictures of a corset constructed of red sateen, yellow leather and whalebone from 1883 and a silk day dress made around 1873 that was donated by the Marchioness of Bristol. The intense purple color of the dress illustrates the kind of vivid dyes popular at the time.

“Europeana will create a portal which fashion designers, along with anyone else who is interested in fashion, can use as a ‘one-stop shop,”’ said Heather Caven, head of collections management and resource planning at the Victoria & Albert Museum, which also is helping to develop a multilingual Fashion Thesaurus for the site.

Other partners include small museums like the RossiModa Shoe Museum near Venice, which is providing 12,000 images of shoes; photo agencies like Catwalk Pictures of Brussels; fashion schools; and fashion houses including Missoni and Emilio Pucci.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 18, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune. 

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