On any given day at the Cleveland History Center, Patty Edmonson surrounds herself with pieces of the museum’s 13,000 dresses and 40,000 objects that are meant to give visitors a glimpse into what individuals have worn throughout the history of Northeast Ohio. As the Museum Advisory Council Curator of Costume and Textiles, Patty researches the pieces – some dating back to the late 18th century — and figures out historically appropriate ways to display them at the museum, which is supported by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
Preparing for the Power & Politics exhibit which highlights clothing in an installation called Political Fashion Statements, Patty steps into an enclosed glass exhibit area with low lighting in the Chisholm Halle Costume Wing – no shoes allowed – and wears nitrile gloves to protect the delicate articles of clothing. She dresses a mannequin in an 1880s full-skirted parade dress made from fabric that has the faces of Ohio’s president James A. Garfield and his running mate Chester A. Arthur.
Patty has worked at some of the largest museums in the world, earning The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Curatorial Internship in American Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and later having a full-time job in costume research at the Met, but her heart has always been connected to Cleveland. A Cleveland-native and graduate of Case Western Reserve University, her father is the curator at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum at Case Western Reserve University and her mother is a librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
“I was at the Met for a few years. It was really cool work, but New York is difficult on a museum salary, and I missed my parents,” Patty says of her return to Cleveland five years ago. “I like the feel of the arts community here; you feel like you are part of something. Here you have an opportunity to meet people who are doing really cool things, and you can be a part of it.”
Patty says the arts in Cuyahoga County are an important part of the fabric of our community. “Cleveland has world-class art,” she says. “But there’s a feeling that it belongs to us and our city.”