Interns and volunteers are an integral part of the FIDM Museum. From conducting curatorial research to sewing labels in garments, assisting with organizational projects and helping out during exhibit installation, interns and volunteers offer invaluable support to our many activities. We have been extremely fortunate to work with a number of dedicated volunteers and interns over the years. In this post, intern Daniel Mejia describes some of the contributions he made to the FIDM Museum during his summer 2010 internship.
I contacted the FIDM Museum hoping they would take a chance on a Slavic Studies major with no real experience in fashion, but a passion for museums. Luckily, the Museum took me on as a summer intern, and I got to work on some really interesting projects. This post will focus on the some of the research that I did.
First off, I researched the copyright status of certain images. This was an amazing opportunity because I will be attending law school in the fall, with the ultimate goal of working as a lawyer for museums. Museums face legal issues all the time, and, of these issues, copyright law is one of the most common and often one of the most difficult to navigate. It can be hard to know whether an illustration found in a magazine or a photograph in a museum’s collection can be freely reproduced. Copyrights are separate from the objects and images to which they apply, so, for example, just because a museum owns an original photograph does not necessarily mean it owns the copyright to the image. Museums must be vigilant about making sure they have the right to reproduce any image that appears in their publications, whether this means acquiring the copyright, requesting permission from the copyright holder, or determining that the copyright has expired. Here are a few examples of copyright situations.
These images are part of a collection of runway photos donated by the noted fashion photographer Michel Arnaud. When Arnaud donated these photos to the FIDM Museum, he handed over the copyright as well, giving the Museum the right to reproduce them in publications or exhibitions. Copyright should always be taken into account when accepting donations.
Copyrights don’t last forever and their duration is determined by a series of laws and several other factors, such as publication date. For example, fashion historians often rely on images drawn from historic fashion periodicals like Harper's Bazar. If published in the 19th century, copyright has expired, and it is in the public domain, meaning anyone can reproduce it. Anything published in the United States before 1923 is in the public domain.
I also did curatorial research on topics ranging from kilts to the North American beaver trade to charm bracelets for an upcoming exhibition. Interestingly enough, performing curatorial research actually made me feel like I was putting my Slavic Studies degree to good use (I told my parents it would come in handy one day!). During undergrad, I studied Russian language, art, literature, history, and popular culture, often in all sorts of interesting combinations, and fashion meshed seamlessly with these studies. Fashion, in many ways, is just another aspect of visual culture, and I found that looking for interdisciplinary connections greatly enhanced my understanding of an article of clothing, just as it would for a painting or a piece of literature.
During my time at the FIDM Museum, I worked with some really great people and learned a lot about fashion, museums, and law. It was definitely 5 weeks very well spent.