Kent State University Museum
The Kent State University Museum is home to an extensive collection of fashion and decorative arts. The Museum is affiliated with the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Kent State University. Rodgers and Silverman were partners of a New York City based company that manufactured dresses, and in 1982 they donated a 5000 volume reference library, 4000 costumes and accessories, and almost 1000 pieces of decorative art to the University because of their interest in a fashion and merchandising program. The Museum opened in 1985 and has grown throughout the years. Today, they have acquired over 20,000 individual pieces from generous donors. The Kent State University Museum offers services available to both the public and univeristy, such as exhibitions, public programs, and opportunities for research.
Backstory and Context
In the early 1900s Jerry Silverman, a lawyer and businessman, partnered with Shannon Rodgers, a designer, and together they founded Jerry Silverman, Inc. The women’s fashion firm was one of the most successful companies of its kind in New York during the twentieth century. Overtime, Rodgers had collected costumes that ranged from historic to designer pieces. The collection was so grand that it was considered one of the most significant collections the United States. Being from Ohio, Rodgers decided to donate the collection, valued at $5 million, to Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. Rodgers only stipulations were that the University open a museum to showcase the collection, provide educational programs allowing the public access to study the collections, and have the Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising (founded in 1983) be the main educational institution for fashion design and merchandising in the Midwest.
The Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising offers bachelors degrees in arts and sciences. The school provides students with an education focused on fashion design and merchandising with an underlying foundation in business and liberal arts. Students who are a part of the school’s program benefit from being able to access and research the fashion textile collections at the Kent State University Museum.
The Museum opened in 1985 in the University’s original library. The building was renovated to house the museum’s collections and exhibits. The original structure’s design displays Beaux Arts style architecture and these elements were restored and showcased in the Museum. Former Kent State University architect, Ted Curtis, and Whitley & Whitley, an architectural firm from Cleveland, oversaw all of the restorations. Chandeliers, woodwork, and marble from the original library are still visible in the Museum’s galleries today.
Currently, the Museums collections are extensive and include historic costumes, designer pieces and a digital collection. The public can visit the Museum to simply admire the enormity, beauty and significance of its collections, or they can become involved in a variety of public programs. Group tours and research appointments are available upon scheduling. The Museum holds true to its mission by attempting to connect people to history and culture with education being a founding and core principle.
Kent State University Museum Mission Statement:
"The Kent State University Museum advances the understanding of world cultures through collecting, preserving, interpreting and exhibiting fashion, textiles, and related arts to students, scholars and the general public."1