LG: What’s your background?
MH: I studied design at NC State. I started in Industrial Design and found that I wanted to focus on fabrics. When I graduated there was a downturn in the economy and not a lot of job opportunities so I went to grad school and explored a couple different avenues. I thought I wanted to work in a costume shop and museum work was another option because I had interned here during the previous iteration of the Gregg: The Gallery of Art & Design.
I thought I wanted to be on the curatorial side or in conservation. But registration internships are usually easier to get into and that’s what happened to me. From that experience I found that I really liked it because it’s combination of both of curatorial and conservation.
You have to be organized and very attentive to details but you get to deal with cool stuff and be creative too.
LG: Do you have a favorite piece here?
MH: I really love Japanese textiles, apparel and non-apparels. I like the asymmetry, the colors, the combinations, the simplicity of the subject matter. The attention to detail is just insane. It’s easily my favorite aesthetic but I my favorite object here is actually not a Japanese textile. It’s a 1908 Callot Soeurs dress from Paris. It’s covered in sequins, has lace at the top, and a fishtail train. It’s an opulent, royal blue, ball gown. Back when I was a student, and in the internship, I got to work on it; a little pre-conversation work.
LG: What are some of the most requested items to view?
MH: The College of Design uses our collection the most, fabrics folk, especially the hand-makers or those interested in looking at other world traditions — [mostly] because that’s what we have a lot of. We even have a class that meets once a year; it’s like an art history class but it’s a textile class and we teach directly from the objects, so instead of looking at slides you get to come and see things from South America, Asia, Africa, we go around the world for the class.
LG: What are you most looking forward for the space?
MH: First, having our own front door that we can control the hours to and, secondly, we’ll have a sign out front on a street people have heard of. We’re going from being a protected, “pretend” museum to being one people know exists.
LG: What are some of the most interesting things to come through the doors?
MH: We have so many amazing things that people just had in their house. That Callot Soeurs dress, for example, when people who know fashion hear we have it, they’re shocked. Somebody wore the dress, so it’s not in pristine condition. Nor is it something the MET would display — they have other examples from that House, but the fact that a museum in Raleigh, N.C. has the real thing to show is pretty amazing.
LG: What’s something people don’t realize about the collection?
MH: How big it is and how diverse it is. Most people have seen only one exhibition, or one category, and don’t realize how much is actually here.
A woman worked with us for an African Textiles show and she asked what other African Textiles we have at The Gregg — she only looked at West African Textiles — and as I tried to explain what all we had she couldn’t believe it. She even took that world history class. Even the people who are very involved still don’t see the scope of it.
LG: How long did it take you to realize how extensive the collection is?
MH: I had been exposed to it early on, but for Roger, planning the opening show has been the best way for him to come into a deeper understanding of what The Gregg holds. Just him going through the database was enough. It takes years if you’re not working in it every day.
LG: How would you describe working as a registrar to anyone curious about the job?
MH: The position most people know about is a curator. They’re focused on the story of the object, what it has to tell and gathering other pieces that would help tell that story. A registrar is in charge of the physical aspects of the object: Do we legally own it? Can we find it? Is it being damaged by temperature or light? That type of stuff. It’s less research focused but more hands-on. Then you get to the conservators who are even more hands-on.