EFHA International Symposium 2022: “Wordings”

In cultural heritage, words matter. We use them to identify artefacts and the techniques and people they represent; to describe artefacts and their meaning; to reactivate stories, re-evaluate power structures, signal moments of disruption and change. Words are tools to catalogue objects when they enter museums, brands and private collections, and vehicles to deliver ideas and instances embodied by objects to wide and diverse audiences.

Issues regarding language and terminology are at the forefront of today’s political and social debates, in the public arena as well as in museums and archives. This is true in relation to collections of costumes, clothing, and accessories, due to fashion’s ability to both establish norms and challenge stereotypes. However, not always fashion objects are contextualised, and their story is hardly told in full by catalogue entries and metadata.

In the last few years, it has become increasingly important for cultural institutions to address biases intrinsic to old cataloguing and other museological practices. Multiple debates have emerged to rethink objects’ institutional definitions and propose new vocabularies to the public. Museums, foundations, and other cultural institutions have started to actively engage with communities and scholars to update biased methods of acquisition and set new standards in cataloguing practices. The goal is to produce more inclusive interpretations to rethink ‘against-the-grain’ permanent collections, as well as employ more complex narratives in temporary physical and digital displays of heritage. The reconsideration of terminology and establishment of revised thesauri is leading to a more thorough understanding of objects and their cultural as well as natural value, in order to find new ways of shaping narratives and telling stories.

'Wordings' wants to look at words – their social value, the complexities connected to their changing meaning and their historical and cultural context, and their ‘life’ as curatorial tools – in museological practices.



14,00 - 14,10 Welcome and Introduction to the Symposium. Marco Rendina, EFHA

Establishing Vocabularies, defining identities

14,15 - 14,35 The Fashion Language Spatial Cognitive corpus: the strange case of the shapes. Maria Catricalà, Università Roma Tre

14,35 - 14,55 Fashion and Dress History Languages and Terminologies: the FLATIF project. Maria Teresa Zanola, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

14,55 - 15,15 Reflections on corporate museums and terminology. Matteo Augello, Lecturer and Performer

15,15 - 15,30 Tea Break

15,30 - 15,50 Destinés ou utilisés aux colonies: Taxonomy and Parisian Couture at the 1931 Colonial Exhibition. Paula Alaszkiewicz, Colorado State University

15,50 - 16,10 A new ‘lexicon’ for the digital textile museum of the XXI Century. Maria Canella, Università degli Studi di Milano

16,10 - 16,40 Q&A

16,40 - 17,00 Wrap-up of Day 1


14,00 - 14,10 Welcome and Introduction. Marta Franceschini, EFHA

Rethinking Collections, representing communities

14,10 - 14,30 (Fashion) Words Matter! Daan Van Dartel, Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen

14,30 – 14,50 An Oral History Approach to the Tonie Lewenhaupt Fashion Collection. Alba Sanz Alvarez, Edinburgh College of Art

14,50 - 15,10 Fashion special needs: from do it yourself to outsider fashion. Elisa Fulco, Writer and Curator

15,10 - 15,30 Unspoken thread unwoven word. Textile and clothing names as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Sofia Pinto Correia, Fashion designer

15,30 - 15,50 Tea Break

15,50 - 16,10 The vocabulary of basic terms of ICOM COSTUME – historical-methodological paths.
Maria Cristina Volpi, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

16,10 - 16,30 Developing a language and terminology strategy: V&A Africa Fashion. Elisabeth Murray, V&A

16,30 - 16,50 Unboxing colonial souvenirs. Redefining the “Zouave jacket”. Roberto Luis Martins, Amsterdam Museum

16,50 - 17,15 Q&A

17,15 - 17,30 Wrap-up of the conference

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Admission to the EFHA 2022 symposium is free, but we welcome your support to sustain our capacity-building activities for the cultural heritage sector.