In 2017, Milner Library’s Special Collections was gifted an exquisite collection of more than 2,000 circus wardrobe pieces. Ranging from clothing to accessories such as shoes and head pieces, the elaborate collection captures one of the most important forms of entertainment in American history.
“The Ueckert Wardrobe Collection is astonishing for many reasons, but mostly for the 100 years it spans,” said Maureen Brunsdale, head of Special Collections. “The earliest piece of wardrobe dates to 1889 and features a pair of green velvet trunks, collar, wristlets, and slippers. Silver sequins adorn the pieces along with silver coiled fringe. Equally remarkable is the fact that we have a cabinet card showing the performers who wore these items!”
Just like all of the other historical circus items housed at Special Collections, the Ueckert Wardrobe Collection provides numerous collaboration opportunities across campus and beyond.
“Our Circus & Allied Arts Collection is deeply integrated into the University and library’s teaching and learning mission,” said Milner Library Dean Dallas Long. “Faculty and students in Art, Business, History, Family and Consumer Sciences, Theater and Dance, English, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; and Kinesiology and Recreation use this collection as well as scholars from all over the world. We envision the same campus and global reach for the Ueckert Wardrobe Collection.”
In order to make these exceptional items accessible to students, faculty, staff, and the wider community, the library needs museum-quality mannequins and accessories. Having at least one set of male and female mannequins with accessories will allow the library to display items properly while preserving the delicate and ornate details. One mannequin and accessories alone is approximately $4,000—which is why we need your help.
During the months of November and December, Milner Library is raising funds to help purchase items necessary to make this one-of-a-kind collection accessible for our students, faculty, staff, and greater community. And to help this project hit the big top, Jess and Fawn Ray will contribute $500 once we raise the first $1,000. Additional support will help make these beautiful and historically significant pieces accessible to our campus community and beyond. Learn more about this project and how to give at hatch.illinoisstate.edu/circuscostumes.