A Peek into a Costume Collection (part one): From bronze ducks to Silk Kimonos—BOSTON edition

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In Boston Common: The mystery knitters truly outdid themselves with this—the hats even had pom pons

 

I was in Boston this week!  It was still freezing there! The bronze ducks in the “Make Way for Ducklings” sculpture on Boston Common were well prepared—- they’d been ‘yarn bombed’ with a set of hats and scarves for each little duck.  Too clever to not share.


 

But this trip reminded me of a beautiful Kimono collection at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and I thought that would be a fun thing to share this week.

kimono_1
Noh costume (nuihaku) Kimono Japanese Edo period 18th or 19th century
kimono_2
Noh costume (atsuita) Kimono Japanese Edo period 18th century (overpainted in late 19th)

 

This collection is especially interesting because it includes a number of examples from the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). The Meiji period is the first time period where you’ll see a number of synthetic dyes being used in Kimono fabric. I used a number of examples from the MFA’s collection in a grad school research paper about the use of Aniline dyes during the Meiji period—so I thought this would be fun to revisit.

Kimono (uchikake) Japanese Meiji era 1868–80 Synthetic dyes are used in this kimono
Kimono (uchikake)
Japanese
Meiji era
1868–80
Synthetic dyes are used in this kimono

But, an unexpected complication popped up while I was browsing for additional information about the MFA’s Kimono collection. Last summer, the MFA introduced an event called “Kimono Wednesday”, which was intended to be a series to share objects in MFA’s fine art collection  with related Japanese textiles from their decorative arts collection.

This didn’t go over very well—or at least, it would be fair to say that the response the museum received about this programming series surprised MFA Boston staff.

An article from the Boston Globe explains more from the protester’s point of view:  And this article may be a more helpful description of the situation.

Cultural appropriation is an incredibly important topic in the museum field. And the protests around this exhibit (from both sides) make some valid points that are worthy for some additional exploration.

So, instead of a light, pretty article about Kimonos at the MFA Boston, I’m going to hold up on my synthetic dye chat and take some time this week and work on a follow up post for next week that will look into the issue of Kimono Wednesday (and the way the museum responded and shifted their programming)  with some more depth.

Kimono (uchikake) Japanese Meiji era late 19th century
Kimono (uchikake)
Japanese
Meiji era
late 19th century