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Sarah Byrd, Fashion and Textile Studies Student

We get to work with a student collection of historic garments, damaged pieces that you get to practice fixing. You get to touch them and see how they were constructed, and where other students did repair work. They are mostly 20th-century pieces, but we got to work on some Victorian garments and even some really antique stuff like a pre-Columbian belt that one student gave a bath to in a conservation class.

It’s scary working with fragile, old materials. You don’t know if the color is going to run, or the seams are going to split, but you’re taught to look at it and evaluate it in the right way. We learned this tooth test, which is hilarious in its simplicity. In collections, you need to know what kind of material an object is, plastic or bone or glass, in order to conserve it properly. You can generally tell what is by tapping it on your tooth. Each material will feel different and this is an acceptable testing method. You use your front teeth because they are your “smart” teeth, something I didn’t know before. So you learn more than just conservation and history here, there’s a wealth of knowledge. Including I guess, dentistry.