The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection

Oris Glisson
Oris Glisson

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection is housed within the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management in Wallace Hall Room 123A.

The mission of The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection is to preserve and document fashionable dress items worn in southwestern Virginia to illustrate to students, faculty, alumni, and the Virginia Tech community, the changing values in apparel design and clothing use from the 18th century to present. 

In support of the collection’s vision, clothing, textiles, and accessories that are collected will exhibit the technical, aesthetic, and social changes in fashionable dress. 

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection will become a central resource for education of historic dress and fashion through teaching and research at Virginia Tech, as well as through outreach to communities throughout southwestern Virginia.

This vision is supported by future goals for the collection, which align with Virginia Tech’s strategic goals. Future goals are to:

  • Photograph and digitize the collection’s holdings to make them available for the public, thereby increasing the collection’s reach and impact
  • Establish a group of supporters and provide opportunities for service and volunteering, thereby increasing engagement with the community
  • Provide more opportunities for students to hone and illustrate their talents in artifact research and exhibition
  • Create professional-quality exhibitions that display excellence in research and learning.

The collection was founded by Miss Oris Glisson who served as Associate Professor of Home Economics from 1948 – 1955 and Professor and Department Head of the Department of Clothing, Textiles, and Related Art (now the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management) from 1955 –1978. She developed the Historic Costume and Textile Collection in 1958 and donated and helped document over 600 fashionable dress items from the 1950s through the 1970s, which serve as the hallmark of the collection, some of which are designer garments. Miss Glisson established the collection’s storage facilities and significantly grew the collection’s holdings. The collection was named The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection in her honor upon her retirement in 1978. 

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection contains more than 5,000 pieces of day and evening wear, undergarments, outerwear, and accessories, as well as textiles (lace, coverlets, quilts, and other household items) from local and state donors, including former students, faculty, friends and family of faculty and students.

The Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection is primarily used for teaching and research. It is also used for outreach. Students in Fashion Merchandising and Design (FMD) will become familiar with the collection throughout their coursework by taking courses in merchandising and design, as well as courses focusing on historic and cultural aspects of fashion and dress. FMD students are first introduced to the collection in their freshman year when they learn about dress artifacts as part of an introductory fashion course and later when they complete artifact analysis research projects in the course of History of Costume in their sophomore year. In addition, FMD students interested in historic collections management will receive specialized instructions in the course of Historic Collections Management and create small exhibits in the collection’s four display windows, which are highly valued by the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management to increase the visibility of the department.

Faculty and students also use the collection for research. Some faculty perform artifact analysis on garments to further understand changes in the construction and design throughout the 19th and 20th century and how these changes were influenced by political, economic, social, and cultural factors. This research is presented at conferences and published in research journals. Undergraduate students may also perform faculty-directed research on artifacts within the collection and present it at student conferences and research competitions. Research is also a key component in planning exhibitions held in the Wallace Gallery, which are designed to engage the local Virginia Tech community. 

The collection is managed by Dina Smith-Glaviana, the Director of the Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textiles Collection and tenure-track faculty member, and Janet Wimmer, a Senior Laboratory Specialist who assists with cataloging, storage, and exhibition/display of collection holdings.

Contact

Dina Smith-Glaviana
Director of the Oris Glisson Historic Costume and Textile Collection
240 Wallace Hall
295 W Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
540-231-6164 | dinacs@vt.edu