Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Blaire O. Gagnon

Abstract

Rhode Island is home to many historical societies, small museums, and historic houses that include textiles in their collections. The University of Rhode Island (URI) Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design department (TMD) offers a masters program in historic textiles and costume. The density of small cultural institutions that have textile or costume collections in Rhode Island provides an opportunity for the URI TMD Department to position itself as a locus for engagement, education, and research in Rhode Island and beyond. University-community collaboration is not a new development. States founded land-grant universities to serve as resources for their communities, though the definition of the community to be served and the types of service to be provided have evolved over time. Within university contexts, promotion and tenure systems codify engagement, and major granting agencies are supporting engagement within university settings, between universities and other cultural institutions, and between local, state, and regional organizations. This thesis describes the results of a project aimed at identifying potential linkages between the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Cultural Institutions (RICI). Changes in the attitudes of the academic community and philanthropic organizations are examined, specifically related to ideas of outreach and engagement, using the current and potential relationships between RICIs and TMD as context. Participants showed interest in strengthening contact with TMD at URI, though an “academic as expert” model was revealed in participant anxiety related to accessions, storage and exhibition practices. Semi-structured interviews and site visits with participating institutions allowed ideas for inter-institutional partnership to develop without predetermined “outreach” activities planned. With this data and supporting literature on community engagement, a model for institutionalizing and sustaining community engagement is proposed.

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