DMDA - Digital Museum of Dress Accessories

In collaboration with Leeds Museums and Galleries and the Castle Museum York - launched November 2021

The DMDA (Digital Museum of Dress Accessories) is an online ‘museum’ dedicated, as the name suggests, to the ‘add-ons to an outfit’: to all areas of things worn and/or carried alongside an outfit of clothing, focusing on museum objects from the 18th to mid-20th centuries.

Dress accessories are an area of fashion history that is often overlooked and one which the museum founders Dr Cordula van Wyhe and Dr Susan Vincent (both University of York) aim to bring centre stage, working alongside curators from different collections across the world, beginning locally with museum partners York Castle Museum (York Museums Trust) and Leeds Museums and Galleries.

The inaugural website features one gallery of the museum, Patches and Patch Boxes. It offers fascinating insight into the material, visual and cultural history of these small enamel boxes. As well as patch boxes from York Castle Museum and Leeds Museums and Galleries, it includes specially curated items from a vast array of other physical collections, including: the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), the National Maritime Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Trust, the Pepys Library (Magdalene College, University of Oxford), Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum, the Royal Collection, the Science Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wellcome Collection, Wriston Art Center Galleries (Lawrence University), and the Yale Center for British Art.

Alongside the curated digital exhibits, the DMDA has its own handling collection.  This was the highlight of the DMDA’s first live event in York Museum Gardens on 4 August 2021, which attracted a lot of public interest.

The DMDA officially launched in November 2021 with talks and a reception in the Treehouse, Berwick Saul Building, University of York.

On 23 May 2022, the DMDA was a central part of a workshop at the University of Manchester, launching a partnership with the Henry Royce Institute, with the aim of discovering and connecting the links between the history of materials and the history of the objects. Natalie Raw, Curator of Costume and Textiles at Leeds Museums and GalleriesLouise Cooling, Curator of Collections and Interiors, Kenwood House, London; and Dr M. Faye Prior, Collections Facilitator (History) at the Castle Museum, York, gave talks on their respective collections.

On 18 June 2022, Dr van Wyhe presented a workshop at the York Festival of Ideas: Handling History: Exploring Dress Accessories.

The current DMDA website was designed by Dr Marjorie Coughlan (University of York). There are a further 15 ‘galleries’ envisaged for the digital museum: parasols and umbrellas, which will be the next section to go live, as well as chatelaines, walking sticks/canes, skirt-lifters, shoe and dress buckles, nutmeg graters, dress shields, vesta cases, cigarette cases, watch chains, flea furs and flea catchers, compacts, portable scent containers, button hooks, and hatpins and hatpin holders.

Website screenshot showing 11 thumbnails

Screenshot of the Patches and Patch Boxes index page, DMDA website

Woman in striped dress showing an object to a group of people gathered round

Dr Cordula van Wyhe showing an object from the DMDA handling collection at the DMDA launch (photo: © Joe Coughlan)


Woman giving talk from a lectern to the right of a screen

Dr Susan Vincent giving a presentation on 'Let's Talk About the F Word' at the DMDA launch (Photo: © Joe Coughlan)

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