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Detail, the John Miner Coat, Stonington Historical Society, 2009.120.001

Detail, the John Miner Coat, Stonington Historical Society, 2009.120.001

If I examine and exactly replicate a coat for personal use, what do I owe the museum that owns that coat– anything? I think I owe the museum any information I can share that will improve their records and help build a research file for the future.* I also think I owe them copies of the images I may take, and with digital images, that’s now incredibly easy.

But if I replicate this coat (shoulder intact) for Mr S or the Young Mr, should I give the coat to the Stonington Historical Society when we are done with it? SHS thinks I probably should, but as someone who manages collections, how many replicas do I want, and what standards do I use to judge them?

I think the best course of action is for museums to make patterns of popular or often-requested garments available for purchase, so that anyone who wants to make a replica has all the data they need. Short of that– and funds are often short for that– catalog records with as many measurements and as complete a description as possible will allow dedicated tailors and stitchers to get as close as possible to original garments.

True replicas involve recreating fabrics and using period techniques, and matching a garment measurement to measurement– and in the case of the Miner coat, there is no way to replicate its history. And the amount of work and expertise that would go into a true replica of any historic garment seems enormous– it would constitute a large donation to the museum, even if the garment had been worn.

*For those of you reading the caption on the Miner coat, yes, it needs work, and yes, SHS knows there are problems with that description. I promised to help them with their catalog record.