The Beeman Historic Costume Collection housed in the Department of Applied Business Studies in the Miller College of Business contains over 4,000 pieces of men’s and women’s apparel dating back to the 18th century. The collection began in the 1930s when the Frank C. Ball family presented Mary Beeman, head of what was then known as the Department of Home Economics, with a steamer trunk filled with items of apparel.

A subset of the Beeman Historic Costume Collection have been available in the Digital Media Repository [DMR] since 2010.  The DMR also includes the Mary Beeman Collection which provides access to photographs, memorabilia, and the collected recipe cards of Mary Beeman at Ball State Teachers College from 1929 until her retirement in 1951.

“The Ball State University Libraries and the Beeman Historic Costume Collection (BHCC) have worked collaboratively for over 10 years,” said Dr. Diana Saiki, professor of Fashion Merchandising.  “A primary collaboration has been adding pictures and information about collection pieces to the library’s digital repository. In addition, the library faculty have been critical in advising on a funded grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.”

In 2016, Dr. Saiki and Valerie Birk, Assistant Lecturer of Apparel Design, won a digital humanities grant from the NEH, to create a prototype for an interactive three-dimensional digital collection of historic garments, to make these garments accessible to researchers, educators, and the general public.

There is hope that future grant funding will assist in expanding upon the limited scale of this prototype.  In anticipation of this step forward, as well as to expand upon the existing DMR collection, University Libraries has been continuing work to photograph and catalog the Beeman Historic Costumes onsite in the Applied Technology Building.

“Something I love about working at Bracken is being exposed to projects that involve art and creativity in a historic context,” said photographer and library employee Tony Reynolds.  “The Beeman Collection is one of the best examples of this as it really highlights changes in society over time as expressed in fashion.”

Metadata and Digital Initiatives Developer Blake Stiener echoes this sentiment, “I’ve really enjoyed working on this collaborative project because of its hands-on nature.  I’m used to working with a computer most of the day, so it’s been a welcome change of pace to walk over to the Department of Applied Business Studies and help Tony, Diana, and her students photograph these historic pieces of clothing.  Most of the dresses we photograph I’ve only ever seen in movies, it’s really something else to feel the materials and see how they look up close. It will be great to showcase these pieces in a digital collection to share with everyone.”