Longtime curator retires from LSU Textile and Costume Museum

May 31, 2023

Some might look at devoting one's life's work to clothing as frivolous. 

That person likely wouldn't understand that textiles and fashion are the artifacts of the human experience closest to our bodies from birth to death.

"When you think about all the moments of life — christenings, sweet sixteens, graduations, weddings — all of those experiences can be documented through the clothing someone chose to wear on that special day — and the days in between," said Michael Mamp, the incoming director of the LSU Textile and Costume Museum. "Clothes are the closest physical record of those experiences."

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First lady Donna Edwards speaks with the LSU Textile and Costume Museum's retiring curator Pam Rabalais Vinci on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at the Governor's Mansion in front of a small exhibit of gowns worn by Louisiana's first ladies.

Since 1983, Pam Rabalais Vinci has been working to document those experiences in Louisiana. She was a grad student back then, assigned to work with the historical textile collections at the university. She hadn't been sure what her area of focus would be, but she figured out that she loved clothes and the history they held. She focused her research work on developing a way to date 19th-century clothing — a method that is still used today.

"That cemented my interest in what the museum could be," said Rabalais Vinci, who retired from her position as curator and director of the LSU Textile and Costume Museum on May 31.

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