Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


In a world where technology is constantly changing and cultural institutions such as universities and museums are being asked to do more with less, the question becomes how to improve efficiencies but also expand access. University based museums and collections, have, perhaps, an even greater challenge because their faculty and staff may focus on teaching, service, and publication in ways that do not directly support or integrate their collections or their collection/object related projects are turned primarily inward, through such projects as student papers. On the other hand, they have the opportunity to engage students in object-based research that can not only build student and faculty skills, but also create a sustainable public engagement opportunity. This paper presents the development of an online wiki repository of undergraduate, graduate and faculty research, publication, and creative endeavors related to the University of Rhode Island’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection (HTCC) housed in the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design. The HTCC contains over 20,000 textiles, apparel, and related objects. The wiki project began in a sophomore-level Honors course TMD 224: Culture, Dress and Appearance during the spring 2013 semester as a private course tool, but with the expectation to migrate the student work to a public wiki that can be added to by future classes and faculty, and accessed by outside constituencies. Students designed the original wiki format, conducted object-based and donor history research, and created wiki pages instead of traditional research papers. This paper presents the challenges and opportunities of the wiki platform for teaching, historic object analysis, and public engagement.