Puzzles in the museum need careful work to piece together and understand. It’s easy to look at something quickly and assume the surface is the full story, but that would mean missing large parts of the picture. The Hatfield Historical Museum’s Collections Management & Preservation Grant, funded by the Town of Hatfield’s Community Preservation Act allowed us to put together as many pieces of the story as possible, using original records, research, and careful examination of the objects in the museum. Here’s how that played out in one case.
When I unfolded this light tan silk dress, my first impression was of a pre-Civil War dress, likely 1850s based on the construction details. The slender shape of the sleeve, the narrow braid trim and folds of fabric on the bodice, and the cartridge pleats at the waist, (which would accommodate a hoop underneath), are all correct for a woman’s day dress in the decades right before the Civil War, depending on how fashion-forward or reserved she was.
This dress was already connected to the Bardwell family at this point, a family that had been living in Hatfield since the late 1600s. This dress could have been worn in Hatfield in 1850, and saved for the 170 years between then and now.
But once the dress was laid out on the worktable, incongruities came leaping out. Click HERE to find out more about this fascinating textile puzzle.