19 Sep 2013

A collection of responses to #AskACurator day

The brilliant #AskACurator day was held on Twitter yesterday. Various institutions have collected, blogged, storified their responses, so I have listed them here for your ease! Just click on the links below. Let me know if I've missed any collections @CarrieRSmith and I'll add them to the set!

The Smithsonian 

9/11 Memorial Museum

The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington 

Palazzo Madama

Royal Ontario Museum

Museum of London

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Museo Diocesano

The site Hyperallergic collected a list of interesting questions across the hashtag - "from the very important and serious to the downright hilarious"

See also our post on #AskArchivists Day

13 Sep 2013

‘Sourcing the Archive: new approaches to materialising textile history’ Conference

Thanks to @KathrynHannan who alerted us to what looks like a really interesting conference! Details below.

Pasold Conference, 7-8 November 2013 & 11th January 2014

‘Sourcing the Archive: new approaches to materialising textile history’ 

Registration open.

Keynote speakers:
Professor Carolyn Steedman, University of Warwick
Dr Solveigh Goett, Textile Artist and Researcher
(January speaker tba)
Extra conference date, 11 January 2014

The 2013 Pasold Conference, jointly organised by Goldsmiths Department of History and the Goldsmiths Textile Collection will explore how tacit knowledge of material and affective relationships  can be traced through the words we think with (Lakoff & Johnson 1999, 2003) with a view to asking: how can  our engagement with textile sources extend our knowledge of the past?  What can textiles communicate that other sources cannot? Building on a range of recent events which encourage engagement with the materiality of textiles, textile archives and/or the relationship between textiles and other historical sources the Conference will seek to identify textiles’ unique contribution to the advancement of historical understanding and practices.
The Conference will include an exhibition in the Constance Howard Gallery and a display, and optional handling session, of material from the Goldsmiths’ Textile Collection, ‘an eclectic, international treasure trove of textiles’.
We are delighted to announce that the call for papers produced such an abundance of exciting proposals that we have arranged a second stage of the Conference, with support from Goldsmiths Department of Design, on January 11 2014. ‘Fashioning the Archive: new approaches to materialising textile history’ will build on the November sessions, addressing the same questions but with an emphasis – though not an exclusive focus – on dress-related papers. Details are yet to be finalised, but confirmed speakers are listed with the November programme. There will be a further accompanying exhibition and opportunity to access the Goldsmiths’ Textile Collection. Day rates are available for both stages of the Conference, but there is a January fee waiver for those registering for both November dates.
For all enquiries, please email Vivienne Richmond at: v.richmond(@gold.ac.uk).

12 Sep 2013

Archives and White Gloves Myth

After The Great British Bake off featured The John Rylands Library of the University of Manchester, the inevitable tweets about white gloves appeared:

The answer is, no! The standard Google images of people handling manuscripts don't help either

So, I was pleased to see the University of Reading's clear, informative post on the subject - here

And the National Archives blog post - here

You can also watch a video from the British Library on how best to handle manuscripts without white gloves - here

Fran Baker, one of our contributors to The Boundaries of the Literary Archive collection works at The John Ryland's Library. Fran's chapter discusses Dickens' editorial influence on the manuscripts of Elizabeth Gaskell which can be found at the library. Fran's posts for the John Ryland's Library blog can be found - here

10 Sep 2013

Emily Dickinson's Music Book Digitised

Emily Dickinson's music book has been digitised by Harvard and can be accessed - here

The full brilliant post by the Houghton Library Blog on the history of music books and this one in particular can be found - here

"Music books or “binders’ volumes” were extremely popular during the years 1830-1870. These personal collections of bound published sheet-music titles were assembled by young women primarily during their adolescent years, when musical training and accomplishment was sought after as a reflection of cultural refinement and gentility.

The average binder’s volume contains 35 to 45 pieces of music. At just over 100 pieces, Emily Dickinson’s music book is uncommonly large. The book’s content tells us a great deal about her musical interests. Most binders from the period contain a majority of vocal music and only some instrumental numbers. In contrast, eighty percent of the Dickinson book is devoted to instrumental music, indicating Emily’s keen engagement in the piano repertoire of her day.

While the music book contains a majority of popular waltzes, marches, quicksteps, theme and variations, and instrumental operatic arrangements, many of considerable difficulty, there are also notable groupings of traditional Irish and Scottish dance tunes and ballads, political songs, and in particular, minstrel music which are rare in binders’ volumes."

Emily Dickinson's Electronic archive can be found - here

A call for papers for on Emily Dickinson’s Reading Culture - here

Poetry Foundation's page on Emily Dickinson - here

“Hope” is the thing with feathers - (314)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

28 Aug 2013

New publication: The Boundaries of the Literary Archive

Carrie and I are very pleased to say that our edited collection The Boundaries of the Literary Archive is now in print and available to purchase!

The book can be found here on the Ashgate website, and here on Amazon.

The flyer for the book with full details can found below.

Lantern Archive Opens 800,000 Pages of Digital Content

A great new resource for anyone in the film and media history field -- the Lantern Archive, a new digital repository  for media history resources -- has gone live as part of the Media History Digital Library.

This new searchable archive gives access to some 800,000 pages of content that span film, television and broadcasting history, encompassing a vast number of film periodicals and magazines (if you're interested in knowing more about how these were used by audiences in the silent period, take a look at my chapter on 'Letter Writing, Cinemagoing and Archive Ephemera' in myself and Carrie's new edited collection The Boundaries of the Literary Archive -- out now!).

The project represents a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin, whose collections of film periodicals are now text-searchable online -- a huge benefit to any researcher who has had experience of trawling page-by-page through these materials on microfiche looking for that elusive mention on one particular film or one particular star... even better, you can download images and texts.

Check it out, and enjoy the bizarre, the entertaining and the beautiful from film publishing up to the 1970s.

20 Aug 2013

TS Eliot poem hand set by Virginia Woolf fetches £4,500 at auction

Hogarth Press edition of TS Eliot's The Waste Land. Photograph: Bonhams
A first edition of The Waste Land published by Woolf's Hogarth Press has been sold to St Andrew's University. Read the article - here

'A rare UK first edition of T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land, hand-set by Virginia Woolf – who "had difficulty with the typography" – has been bought at auction by the University of St Andrews for £4,500 after being donated to Oxfam.'

Sales such as these can draw attention to interesting aspects of the poem itself. For example, Lydia Wilkinson, books specialist at auction house Bonhams, notes that:

"Woolf had difficulty with the typography because of the way Eliot would write, the rhythm and space used in his poems, and she had a bit of trouble getting the typeface right." 

This type of detail, considering the already acknowledged influence that The Waste Land' had on texts such as Mrs. Dalloway, can cause us to reconsider the "rhythm and space" in Woolf's novels.

See more Eliot related content on this blog - here
And more on Woolf - here

19 Aug 2013

Daphne du Maurier's son reveals 'Rebecca’ was based on the author's life

From the Telegraph
Interview in the Telegraph with the author's son Kits Browning which discusses some of the source material for the novel including du Maurier's life and some interesting documents. It also notes that there is a new adaptation in the pipeline! Read the full interview here.

Some excerpts: 

'"Very roughly, the book will be about the influence of a first wife on a second,” wrote Daphne du Maurier in her notes. “Until wife 2 is haunted day and night… a tragedy is looming very close and crash! Bang! Something happens.”


The seed of the story lay in du Maurier’s jealousy of Jan Ricardo, the first fiancée of her husband. “I know that she came across one or two letters or cards, fairly sort of harmless things, where Jan did sign 'Jan Ricardo’ with this wonderful great R,” says Browning, flourishing his hand in the air. It is a portentous curlicue that is emulated in the book.
“The name Rebecca,” wrote du Maurier, “stood out black and strong, the tall and sloping R dwarfing the other letters.” Ricardo later threw herself under a train, although not, Browning says, due to his parents’ marriage. Still, it is said that Daphne was haunted by the suspicion that her husband remained attracted to Ricardo.
Manderley, like Hogwarts and Brideshead, is a name fixed in our imagination. Yet the anonymity of the novel’s narrator continues to intrigue. “She couldn’t think what to call her and so she didn’t call her anything. And then it became a challenge: could she actually write the whole thing without it,” says Browning. “Funnily enough, in the Hitchcock film, in the script she is written as 'I’, but they all called her 'Daphne’ on the shoot.”
Both Mrs de Winters were drawn from du Maurier’s own character. “I always identified Mum with the second, rather timid one,” says Browning. “It was totally split, because she was just as good as Rebecca at the sailing and all that toughness.'

You can see Vivian Leigh's test reel for the part of the second Mrs de Winter - here (via @DrJenBarnes)
Other du Maurier content on this blog can be found - here
Daphne du Maurier's papers are held in University of Exeter's Heritage Collections and form part of the subject of Prof. Helen Taylor's chapter in the forthcoming book: The Boundaries of the Literary Archive

1 Jul 2013

Lindisfarne Gospels Digitised by the British Library and exhibited in Durham

As part of the British Library's commitment to digitising some of the most extraordinary manuscripts, we now have access to the Anglo Saxon Lindisfarne Gospels through its 'Turn the Pages' application - This allows you to turn the pages of the manuscript, magnify it, hear an audio description of the page or read a written description.

The highlights from the Lindisfarne gospels are free for a limited time and the full version can be bought as an app for ipad. Once again the BL makes me wish I owned an ipad!

The physical gospels are currently being exhibited in Durham from today (1st July)! See the website here.

"The Lindisfarne Gospels book is one of the greatest landmarks of human cultural achievement. Created by the community of St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne it is one of the best examples of Medieval creativity and craftsmanship.
The Lindisfarne Gospels Durham exhibition presents for the first time the extraordinary full story of the Lindisfarne Gospels, exploring how and why this masterpiece was created, its influence on Medieval Europe and how artistic traditions from Britain and the Mediterranean mainland came together in North East England.
At the centre of the exhibition in Durham University's Palace Green Library is the gospel book itself, written in honour of St Cuthbert. In addition many fabulous artefacts from Anglo-Saxon England will be on show including ornate gold objects from the Staffordshire Hoard, intricately carved stone from Lindisfarne and silver from Hexham, alongside some very special medieval manuscripts such as the St Cuthbert Gospel and the Durham Gospels. These items place the Lindisfarne Gospels within a wider context of Anglo-Saxon creativity and show how incredibly complex and elaborate Medieval craftsmanship was."

26 May 2013

Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients

I stumbled across this wonderful article containing really moving photographs of the suitcases and belonging of the patients at a psychiatric institution between 1910-1960.

From Collectors Weekly

"If you were committed to a psychiatric institution, unsure if you’d ever return to the life you knew before, what would you take with you? That sobering question hovers like an apparition over each of the Willard Asylum suitcases. From the 1910s through the 1960s, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away, with nobody to claim them. Upon the center’s closure in 1995, employees found hundreds of these time capsules stored in a locked attic. Working with the New York State Museum, former Willard staffers were able to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Photographer Jon Crispin has long been drawn to the ghostly remains of abandoned psychiatric institutions. After learning of the Willard suitcases, Crispin sought the museum’s permission to document each case and its contents. In 2011, Crispin completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund the first phase of the project, which he recently finished. Next spring, a selection of his photos will accompany the inaugural exhibit at the San Francisco Exploratorium’s new location."

To read more about the project and an interview with the photographer - click here

From Collectors Weekly

24 May 2013

Newly Opened files at the National Archives reveal drunken meetings, cross dressing and surveillance

There are some wonderful blog posts coming out of the National Archives material at the moment. Previously secret files have been opened and revealed some very interesting meetings!

From itv

"‘There I found Winston and Stalin, and Molotov who has joined them, sitting with a heavily-laden board between them: food of all kinds crowned by a sucking [sic] pig, and innumerable bottles. What Stalin made me drink seemed pretty savage: Winston, who by that time was complaining of a slight headache, seemed wisely to be confining himself to a comparatively innocuous effervescent Caucasian red wine. Everyone seemed to be as merry as a marriage bell’."

The papers have also exposed the bugging of Edward VIII in the period before his abdications exposing a 'serious breakdown in trust' between himself and his ministers.

In addition, the National Archives have posted some photographs of intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Clarke dressed as both a man and a woman taken by the Spanish police. The Lieutenant was fined by the Spanish police and hurried back to Gibraltar by Churchill.

From itv

Read more here.

21 May 2013

Reclaiming Exhibition: Two views on Carl Theodore Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

1. Reclaiming

(Lisa Stead)

Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan if Arc is my favourite film, pretty much bar none. Although I suspect very concept of a favourite film is in itself a bit ridiculous -- clearly pinning down what you consider to be the 'best' is a question anyone who teaches or studies Film or English most likely dislikes being asked for all the ways in which it we feel it challenges us to say what's expected, what intellectually defines us and pins our taste down in a single sentence open to swift judgement. So much so that I always begin seminars with any new class by asking them to admit to (and revel in) what they consider to be their most embarrassing pet love, not the obscure art house text they think will make them look widely viewed, appropriately cultured in obscurity (and thus potentially that much more attractive to the geekier members of the opposite sex...).

However, despite this -- turns out, this IS my favourite film, one that I constantly circle back to and one that just kind of stays there under your skin. And the reasons why circulate further around its somewhat romantic exhibition history and status as film history artefact as much as its excessively beautiful, haunting and emotionally draining portrayal of faith on trial showcasing one of the greatest and most obscure performances in cinema.

Dreyer's film, which focuses upon the record of Joan's trial, was equal parts critically successful to financially disastrous upon its initial release, and its immediate history saw a series of cuts and mishaps and made the original a rare and eventually ‘lost’ commodity (the original negative was lost to a studio fire at UFA). Dreyer's attempted restructuring from a few remaining original prints was then again lost to fire in 1929 (bad fire times all round). Since then, the original film was considered lost entire, until, bizarrely canisters containing the film were found in a cleaning cupboard mental institution in Oslo in the 1980s. After three years at the Norwegian Film Institute the reels were finally examined and found to be Dreyer's original cut.

Reclaimed, frequently screened at film festivals, given a DVD release and now a part of numerous film syllabuses, the film really does live again in multiple forms.

What I personally want to flag up in contrast with Carrie's response below is the influence of the contemporary score commissioned for the reclaimed film-- which has a major influence upon the film is experienced in contrast to the live accomplishment you will witness with silent screenings at many festivals and events (a great number of diverse contemplate scores have been written for the film since the late 1989s, including Live accompaniments by the likes of Nick cave and Cat power). The power of Richard Einhorn's 1994 oratorio based on the film entitled "Voices of Light" (available as an optional accompaniment on the Criterion Collection's DVD release)  is rather difficult to put in to words, but the richness and fullness of the soundscape works in startling compositions and contrasts with the sparse nature of Dreyer's images, the intensity of his compositions that blank all else out against the frantic eyes of Renée Falconetti in the film's relentless succession of tight, unforgiving close ups as Joan response to each stage of her interrogation. Watch it with the score, watch it without -- experience it every way you can, because this is a text that grows and changes each time it's encountered, and one that carries with it it's bizarre history of reclamation and restoration that remains just as oddly intoxicating in the overall experience as the film itself.

2. (Re)viewings

(Carrie Smith)

I recently attended a screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc at Birmingham Cathedral as part of the Flatpack Cinema Festival -http://www.flatpackfestival.org.uk/event/the-passion-of-joan-of-arc/ The film was introduced by Paul Shallcross, a pianist who had written a score to accompany it. In his introduction he chose to stress the film’s timelessness. He mentioned that the sets gesture towards medieval simplicity, yet the soldiers wear helmets which look similar to those worn in World War One. He also highlighted the brief incongruent appearance of 1920s plastic spectacles.

Despite the film’s damning portrayal of the Catholic Church, to watch it in Birmingham Cathedral felt entirely appropriate. The cathedral’s high vaulted ceilings, columns, religious paintings etc made you feel that the bishops were about to enter from stage left. The image of the light through the window creating a crucifix on the floor of Joan’s cell was echoed in the stained glass window of the cathedral which was directly behind the screen. The acoustics of the cathedral meant that the score reverberated around the audience. The walls seemed to lean inwards towards Renée Maria Falconetti’s expressive face at the centre of the space.    

Too often, perhaps, films are confined to being watched in the archives and do not have the opportunity to be shown in spaces which can add new meaning and relevance. Dreyer’s film about intolerance felt like it was interacting with modern questions in a real setting and I would applaud Birmingham Cathedral for agreeing to the screening. It would be wonderful to see more silent films present beyond the archive in a living space and in doing so, able to reach larger audiences.

28 Apr 2013

Storify: Beyond the Text: Literary Archives in the 21st Century Symposium

The Beyond the Text Symposium at the The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library sounded brilliant and I was grateful to everyone live tweeting the papers. I have put together a selection of the tweets on Storify, adding in the titles of the papers where possible.

It can be found here

10 Apr 2013

Tiny hand-written poem by Charlotte Brontë sells for £92,000

From The Guardian

"Signed C Brontë, and dated by her on 14 December 1829, "I've been wandering in the greenwoods" is written on a piece of paper measuring just three inches square, and is difficult to read without a magnifying glass

The manuscript was sold by Bonhams as part of the collection of the poet and scholar Roy Davids: it had been given an estimated sale price of £40,000-£45,000, but went for more than double that, selling for £92,450. The Brontë poem, said the auction house, is "extremely rare", because although the author would go on to write around 200 poems, the "vast majority" are in institutions, with "perhaps no more than four" in private hands.

"I've been wandering in the greenwoods" is a celebration of nature, with the precocious young poet elaborating on how she has "been to the distant mountain,/ To the silver singing rill/ By the crystal murmering mountain,/ And the shady verdant hill." It appeared in a printed version in the literary magazine The Young Man's Intelligencer, which was produced by the Brontë children for their own enjoyment. Charlotte took over as editor from her brother Branwell in 1829."

This auction follows the sale of one of the famous little books to the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in 2011.

I've been wandering in the greenwoods by Charlotte Brontë

I've been wandering in the greenwoods
And mid flowery smiling plains
I've been listening to the dark floods
To the thrushes thrilling strains

I have gathered the pale primrose
And the purple violet sweet
I've been where the Asphodel grows
And where lives the red deer fleet.

I've been to the distant mountain,
To the silver singing rill
By the crystal murmering mountain,
And the shady verdant hill.

I've been where the poplar is springing
From the fair Inamelled ground
Where the nightingale is singing
With a solemn plaintive sound.

5 Apr 2013

A Living Archive: William McDonough

From Sustainable Brands

William McDonough, an American architect, is one of the first living archives. This New York Times article explains that McDonough "has started filming all of his meetings and recording all of his phone conversations. He will send them in something close to real time to Stanford, which will be making much of the material immediately accessible on the Internet." The article suggests that this will work in direct contrast with traditional archives in which an "aging famous person puts together his correspondence and drafts, hires an agent and sells the material to the institution that offered the most loot. [...] Scholars would then slowly come pick through the material, which sometimes carried restrictions for decades". 

The article’s tone suggests that the manner in which ‘traditional’ archives function should be superseded as they are based on commercial gain (loot), elitism (scholars) and cumbersome restrictions. The restrictions placed on traditional archives are sometimes requested by the author/donor, however, restrictions are also enforced by others – people referred to in letters, for example. Before it is made public, the archivist is responsible for combing the archive for material which may impinge on the privacy of third parties. The scholar using the archive is aware of the restrictions on the material.

Is the editing hand on McDonough’s ‘living archive’ as transparent? McDonough has to gain permission from those on the other end of the phone or in the meeting with him. McDonough suggests that refusal to allow permission has occurred “twice out of a thousand”. Although this assurance appears to dispel these queries and implies that we are receiving unmediated, open access into his life, the constant stream of material is still being shaped in hidden ways. For example, will third parties referred to in conversations have a say? The article admits that “The privacy implications of this are still somewhat murky”.

Another article on the subject draws attention to the opportunity for collaborative archiving. It notes “The libraries will use the digital components to create a set of open-source archival technologies allowing creators, archivists and selected contributors to actively participate in the project.” This sounds like, potentially, the most interesting and groundbreaking part of the project, although the details remain unclear at this point.

As archivists begin to create new parameters for dealing with privacy relating to born digital materials, ‘living archives’ offer both an exciting step forwards and a new set of difficult questions for archivists and scholars alike.

21 Mar 2013

The Boundaries of the Literary Archive-- book listing and review now on Ashgate webpages

Exciting times -- the official listing, information and first review are up for our co-edited collection The Boundaries of the Literary Archive, released in August of this year with Ashgate.
Check it out here and here!

8 Feb 2013

Virginia Woolf's fun side revealed in unseen manuscripts

Virginia Woolf's 'fun side' isn't really a revelation if you've read novels like 'Orlando', but new Woolf material is always welcome!

In this case, editions of 'The Charleston Bulletin' founded by Woolf's nephews Quentin and Julian Bell in the summer of 1923.

'"It seemed stupid to have a real author so close at hand and not have her contribute," he said of the project. Woolf agreed to get involved, and wrote or dictated a series of supplements – illustrated by Quentin – for the newspaper between 1923 and 1927. The booklets describe the escapades, characters and antics of Bell and Woolf's family, as well as their household servants and members of the Bloomsbury Group.'

The British Library will publish The Charleston Bulletin Supplements this June. You can read excerpts and see illustrations here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/07/virginia-woolf-lighter-side-unseen-manuscripts?CMP=twt_gu

24 Jan 2013

Missing Screenplays Unearthed in the Archive: Laurence Olivier's lost Macbeth

Exeter English academic Jennifer Barnes has recently stumbled across the kind of thing everyone secretly (or not so secretly) hopes to find in the archive -- a missing piece, a lost treasure. Very much in the manner of Possession's Roland Michell (although very much minus any hint of cheekily pocketing said lost treasures) Jennifer discovered 13 previous unstudied versions of Laurence Olivier's 1950s screenplay of Macbeth, a film that was never made, in the Laurence Olivier Archive at the British Library whislt working through production notes for a different Olivier production. Jennifer has subsequently brought to light this body of scripts previously thought to barely exist let alone be 'lost' (Olivier claimed that the only existing script planned for the production was 'not any better than a sketch').
Jennifer explains of the 13 manuscripts:

'... the final shooting script certainly does not correspond to Olivier’s reference to the project as a mere “sketch”. Rather, it offers intricate timings, set plans, set designs and technical notes alongside a finalized script. A reading of all of the catalogued manuscripts confirms that Olivier’s cuts to the play text (unlike those of Hamlet) are minimal. It also reveals that the running time for Macbeth would, like that of Henry V,Hamlet, and Richard III, reach approximately 155 minutes. I can only conclude that Olivier did not want the screenplays to be seen following the failure of the film to make it to the screen. But these documents are worthy of study in their own right, attesting to Olivier’s cultural significance as a Shakespearean icon in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.'

The details of this rather wonderful find and an exploration of the light it sheds on Olivier and his oeuvre can be found in Jennifer's recent article: “Posterity is Dispossessed”: Laurence Olivier’s Macbeth manuscripts in 1958 and 2012.’ Shakespeare Bulletin. 30:3 (2012): 263-297. A link to her academic profile can be found here.

7 Jan 2013

Frida Kahlo's Closet opened 58 years after her death

'Imagine being in Frida Kahlo's childhood home and opening up a closet that has been locked for decades. Inside are hundreds of personal items – personal photographs, love letters, medications, jewelry, shoes, and clothing that still hold the smell of perfume and the last cigarette she smoked.

That is exactly what happened when Hilda Trujillo Soto, the director of the Frida Kahlo Museum opened the closets that had been locked since the Mexican artist's death in 1954. Inside were over 300 items belonging to Frida Kahlo, and now, a wide array of what was found is on display at the Casa Azul, the Frida Kahlo Museum in the Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City.

The exhibit, Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Dresses of Frida Kahlo, a collaboration between the museum and Vogue Mexico, brings to an end an elaborate 50 year scheme to keep private the intimate details of Kahlo's life. It started when she died in 1954, as a distraught Diego Rivera, the famous Mexican muralist and Frida Kahlo's husband, locked the doors to her closet and never let anyone enter for fear that the contents would be mishandled and ruined.

When he died in 1957 the task of protecting its contents went to a dear friend and patron, Dolores Olmedo, who promised him that the closet would remain unopened until 15 years after his death. She kept her word. In fact, she decided to keep the closet locked until her own death. And she lived a long life, passing away in 2002 at the age of 93.

Eventually, museum personnel decided it was time to look inside. And what a discovery. Art historians and fashionistas already knew Frida was unique and ahead of her time. But, what the items in the exhibit show are that despite the disabilities, the monobrow, and the violent depictions of the female anatomy in some of her paintings, Frida Kahlo was a bit of a girlie girl who wore makeup, used perfume and dressed up her prosthetic leg with a red high-heeled boot. Her clothing aimed for style and self-protection but it also made a statement, both political and cultural.

This was especially true of the Tehuana dresses Kahlo wore like a "second skin," said Circe Henestrosa, the exhibit curator. Colorful and carefully made by indigenous artisans, they were a tribute to the matriarchal Tehuantepec society whose women were traders, considered equals with the men. Tehuana's long skirts were also the perfect way for Kahlo to hide her ailments, including a polio-deformed leg she would eventually have amputated.

"This dress symbolizes a powerful woman," Henestrosa said, adding: "She wants to portray her Mexicanidad, or her political convictions, and it's a dress that at the same time helps her distinguish herself as a female artist of the 40s. It's a dress that helps her disguise physical imperfections."

It is a fashion exhibit built around those two themes – disability and ethnicity. The highlights include several of the Tehuana dresses, corsets that Kahlo wore to keep her damaged spine straight and fancy embroidered satin shoes. Her cat-eye style sunglasses and a baguette clutch purse are among the surprising personal items displayed in a glass cabinet.'

Read the full article and watch a video here - http://abcnews.go.com/ABC_Univision/frida-kahlo-fashion-exhibit-opens-mexico-city/story?id=17810830#.UOrLPW-vGSo