Exhibition showcases Sandoz's 'distinctive sense of style'
An exhibition of historical clothing and other personal items once owned by Nebraska author Mari Sandoz is on view through Sept. 7 on the second floor of the Home Economics Building at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
"Mari Sandoz: Crafting a Nebraskan Character" is hosted by the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences. The exhibition is the result of a partnership between graduate students in the university's Museums: Theory and Practice seminar and the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society.
Sandoz is recognized as one of the foremost writers on the American West, focusing on pioneer life and the Plains Indians. Her blunt and realistic descriptions of frontier life shocked many readers in the 1930s. Sandoz used her character-development skills to fashion her own persona, carefully constructing an identity to enhance her position as a serious researcher and writer. Dying her hair red, lying about her age and erasing a divorce from her life history were all part of building her identity as a writer. Fashion choice was another tool she used to craft her character.
"She has a fairly distinctive sense of style," said Claire Nicholas, assistant professor in textiles, merchandising and fashion design. "For example, she loved the color brown. Through analysis and study of the objects from the society's collection, our students were able to find clues about the person. Her letters were also helpful in informing our interpretation of the garments and other objects that we studied."
For students in the seminar, the project was a unique, hands-on learning experience to research, design and install an exhibition of historical objects. Heritage Society board member Jamison Wyatt worked closely with the class to access the collection, locate valuable resources and construct the overarching theme. The society also supported the exhibition through the Mari Sandoz Research Award.
Students also learned more about an iconic Nebraskan who paved the way for other women.
"In that time period, women had to fight hard to be taken seriously," said Katie Francisco, a graduate student who participated in the project. "As a writer, she turned herself into a character, using her writing skills to build her persona. That was very cool."
The exhibition is available for viewing by the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except for holidays.
"Crafting a Nebraskan Character" coincides with a series of events hosted by the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society, June 4-15, and culminating with the dedication of a historical marker at 4 p.m. June 15 on the Lincoln Mall, 1226 J St. The marker commemorates where Sandoz wrote "Old Jules," her first published novel. Learn more about this event and others.