In addition to taking care of the clothing, accessories and other textiles in MOHAI’s artifact collection, Clara Berg also gives presentations about fashion in Seattle.

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Clara Berg

What do you do? I take care of the clothing, accessories and other textiles in MOHAI’s artifact collection. I also do research and give presentations about fashion in Seattle. (If you read that and thought “Is there any fashion in Seattle?” the answer is yes, and you should come to one of my talks!)

How did you get started in that field? I actually interned at MOHAI when I was in high school and that got me excited about pursuing a career in museums. The fashion part started as a peripheral interest — I love watching costume dramas — but then I found a graduate program that covered museum studies and fashion history. I moved to New York to get my M.A., and then got this amazing job back home in Seattle.

What’s a typical day like? No typical day! Lately though, I’ve been spending the mornings installing new garments in the permanent exhibit, and afternoons back at the MOHAI Resource Center working on an inventory of the collection. I also spend a lot of time cleaning artifacts, making padded hangers and answering inquiries about donations.

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What surprises people about your work? It can be a very physical job, involving precise hand skills and enough muscle to haul things around. I spend time stitching labels onto garments, vacuuming dust off fragile objects, cutting fabric for dust covers, carrying things up and down ladders, assembling mannequins, and pushing heavy rolling racks from one spot to another.

What’s the best part of the job? Discovering things and uncovering interesting stories! As I’m going through items in the collection I’ll come across labels, donor names or just interesting design features that cause me to dig a little deeper. And nothing beats the thrill of opening a box and having to catch my breath because the thing in there is absolutely stunning.