Pockets of affect / containers of feeling

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Building on practice-based archival research at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this paper explores the clothing archive as a container of affect and emotion – a space in which intimate and emotionally loaded objects can be held and contained.
Using a collection of 17th- and 18th-century women’s pockets housed at The Costume Institute Collection (each well used and some hand annotated but with scant biographical data assigned to them) as both an example and a metaphor, the paper explores the ways that both garments and the spaces that house them become containers of feeling. How might the metaphor of the pocket – a discreet, imitate and bodily container – help us understand the affects and emotions of the dress archive, and in turn the labour of caring for these objects and spaces?
This paper explores these spaces and the objects contained in them as sites in which multiple ‘feelings’ (a word that conveys both sensation and emotion) are stored and retained. It asks how these acts of containment render dress archives powerful sites within museums, spaces where ambiguous objects may be placed, forgotten and yet retained. Drawing on the works by psychologist Donald Winnicott (1953) and phenomenologist Paul Schilder (1935), it asks how theories of incorporation and attachment might shed light on the encounter with archival garments and with the archive itself. How do these spaces, repositories of unworn and no longer worn clothes, act upon us as curators, conservators, archivists and academics?
Period4 Dec 2021
Event titlePockets, Pouches & Secret Drawers
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map