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PEM Appoints First Curator of Fashion & Textiles

Released February 1, 2018


Petra Slinkard of Chicago History Museum Joins PEM’s Curatorial Team

SALEM, MA — The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) announces the appointment of Petra Slinkard as its first Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles. Slinkard comes to PEM from the Chicago History Museum where she worked with a collection of more than 50,000 examples of costume, fashion and textiles for exhibitions, acquisitions and online and community outreach. Prior to that, she worked at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where she helped expand the museum's fashion exhibition offerings and collection, as well as its Fashion Society. At PEM, Slinkard will foster the growth and innovative, inclusive spirit of the museum’s celebrated fashion initiative.

“PEM’s approach to fashion is committed to teasing out its connections to creativity and culture as wellsprings of humanity. Our global collection and focus on bold interpretation afford us the opportunity to develop distinctive perspectives on the role of fashion in our lives,” says Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM’s James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Deputy Director. “Hiring our first fashion curator has been my personal dream and I know that Petra’s wide-ranging expertise will take our fashion initiative in a fresh and dynamic direction.”

At PEM, Slinkard will develop a vibrant array of exhibitions, installations and programming that celebrate the global impact and reach of fashion. She will also continue to strategically enhance the museum’s collection of fashion, costumes and textiles from around the world -- spanning the 17th-century through today, and work with the museum’s new Fashion Visiting Committee. “I can't wait to see how Petra shapes PEM’s fashion initiative,” continues Hartigan. “She possesses a zest for collaboration, experimentation and community engagement, qualities that will advance our capacity to present fashion as a living expression of creativity.”

With nearly ten years’ of curating in the areas of the fine arts and social history, Slinkard has helped develop a broad range of exhibitions, including: Simply Halston (IMA, 2008); Body Unbound: Contemporary Couture from the IMA’s Collection (IMA, 2010); Ball-Nogues Studio: Gravity’s Loom (IMA, 2010); Friends of the Rag: Art that you Wear (UNI Gallery of Art, University of Northern Iowa, 2011); and An American Legacy: Norell, Blass, Halston and Sprouse (IMA, 2012). For the Chicago History Museum, Slinkard conceived and curated the exhibition, Chicago Styled: Fashioning The Magnificent Mile® and Making Mainbocher | The First American Couturier (2016) for which she authored catalogues.

A board member of the Costume Society of America and a member of the Association of Art Museum Curators, Slinkard is a graduate of Indiana University, Bloomington where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising, a Bachelor of Arts in Art History with a concentration in Modern and Contemporary Art, and a Master of Science in Fashion/Textile History. Slinkard’s interests lie in how fashion, dress and identity pertain to the study of world cultures, fashion design and presentation, the adoption and diffusion of styles and ideas, retail and manufacturing practices and sub-cultural dress.

PEM holds an extraordinary collection of fashion, costumes and textiles from around the world, primarily from the late 17th-century forward. Since 2009, the museum has focused on collecting 20th and 21st-century fashion through major gifts and bequests from nationally and internationally prominent collectors, most notably fashion icon Iris Apfel. This new direction builds on PEM’s historical strengths in accessories, jewelry, contemporary fiber art, needlework, samplers, quilts, domestic furnishing textiles and upholstery, and military uniforms. PEM’s American textile and costume holdings have focused on New England and include many aesthetically significant examples that are extensively documented, which lends the collection exceptional research value. The museum’s overall American clothing collection, which dates primarily from 1820-1930, is among the ten best in the country, while PEM’s shoe collection, the largest and most important in the U.S., is also of international significance.

PEM’s fashion exhibition program began in 2009 with Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel, followed by Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones (2012), Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion (2013), Native Fashion Now (2015), Shoes: Pleasure and Pain (2016-17), WOW® World of WearableArtTM (2017), and Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style (2017-18).

Ramzi Dreessen for Chicago SPLASH

Over the last 20 years, the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has distinguished itself as one of the fastest-growing art museums in North America. Founded in 1799, it is also the country’s oldest continuously operating museum. At its heart is a mission to enrich and transform people's lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections, integrate past and present and underscore the vital importance of creative expression. The museum's collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time — including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, Native American, Oceanic, and African art, as well as one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts. PEM's campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities and performance spaces. Twenty-two noted historic structures grace PEM’s campus, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese house that is the only such example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $20; seniors $18; students $12. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $6 (plus museum admission). Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit

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