History you can touch: Unique project will bring fashion to life
March 7, 2024
Author: Cal Powell  | 706-542-6402  | More about Cal
Contact: Laura McAndrews  | 706-542-4891  | More about Laura

Georgia middle school students will soon get hands-on experience with fashion artifacts from the University of Georgia’s Special Collections Libraries as part of a project designed to enhance fashion education and arts accessibility.

The collaboration between the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and the UGA Special Collections Libraries (SCL) seeks to create meaningful learning experiences for Georgia middle school students around fashion studies standards and historic objects. The project is funded by an $80,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Educators are always looking for innovative methods to teach their students the required content,” said Laura McAndrews, assistant professor in the FACS department of textiles, merchandising and interiors and project director. “The opportunity to teach and learn with historic clothing and textile objects encourages students to think differently about fashion and textiles. By allowing students to touch and handle objects, they can better understand unique insights into the historic and aesthetic development of fashion.”

The three-year project will be tested first in Athens-Clarke County middle schools, beginning with interviews with area FACS educators and students to determine needs.

Eventually, the UGA team will create permanent fashion “journey boxes” housed at the SCL and available for checkout to any Georgia middle school FACS educator.

The boxes will include reproductions of historic objects, curricula and teaching aids. Among the artifacts available for inclusion from the SCL collections are a Montgomery Ward catalog and buyers guide from 1902, a textile manufacturer’s 18th century fabric sample book and cutouts from early 20th century paper dolls.

The project aligns well with helping meet the learning requirements for Georgia middle school students in the fashion studies concentration within FACS programs, McAndrews said.

“Well-designed journey boxes eliminate barriers in education where access and resources may be limited,” McAndrews said. “They’re also invaluable resources for teachers who wish to provide students with in-depth exposure to fashion issues that are critical in FACS.”

In addition to McAndrews, the team includes Beth Weigle, a lecturer in FACS, and Katherine Stein, Mazie Bowen and Jan Hebbard from the SCL.

“We’ve seen firsthand the positive impacts primary sources and active learning have on middle school students, so being able to contribute in a direct and fun way through FACS journey boxes is very exciting for us at Special Collections,” said Bowen, who hosts thousands of K-12 students for field trips each year.

The NEA awarded 1,288 grants totaling more than $32 million this year. The UGA project is one of 19 funded in Georgia.

“We are thrilled to connect with area FACS educators for this invaluable opportunity linking UGA and FACS middle school educators to learn from each other,” McAndrews said. “We hope the journey boxes will become a long-term resource that educators can utilize to strengthen students’ learning experiences about fashion studies. In addition, we want young adults interested in fashion studies to know there is a rich history and a prosperous future in the fashion and textiles industry in Georgia as well as globally.”