New exhibit at Kent State brings film history to life

October 14th, 2010

Most of us collect things that have memories from our past experiences, whether it’s a favorite clothing item or a picture from a memorable event.

For Katharine Hepburn this collection expanded to fill a Connecticut warehouse.

The collection, entitled “Katharine Hepburn: Dressed For Stage and Screen,” opened Oct. 2 at Kent State University’s Museum.

The owners of the possessions wanted to donate them to an educational institution.

According to Sara Hume, assistant professor and curator, Kent State Museum acquired the pieces for the exhibit from Katharine Hepburn’s estate.

After Hepburn passed away, the estate offered it to Kent State Museum. Inside the museum, the exhibit features a wide range of items, containing over 700 total pieces.

“[The exhibit contains] hats, shoes, accessories, makeup, a boa, hairpieces, and an extensive collection of posters and playbills from the shows,” said Hume. “A lot of the posters and playbills are not from her estate, but they were added into the museum too.”

The display also has clothes that Hepburn wore to public events as well as shoes and pants that she wore off-screen.

Her signature looks, including boyish outfits and flare dresses, continue to be staples of classy and high-end fashion today. Hepburn’s clothes demonstrate the independence and strong influence over fashion and feminism at the time.

However, most of all, people are looking forward to seeing all the costumes and dresses worn by Hepburn.

Her lasting impact on fashion was one of her trademark looks: trousers with a blouse and jacket. She loved the look so much that they were once taken away from her while on set.

To our generation, Hepburn is an actress of classic movies. But to older generations,  Hepburn was an icon appropriately named Hollywood’s greatest screen legend by the American Film Institute.

An actress and fashion icon for six decades until she died in 2003, she was in classic films, like “Little Women” (1933), “Adam’s Rib” (1949) and “The African Queen” (1951).

Hepburn received four Academy Awards in her career and was nominated for an impressive total of 12.

Hume said the exhibit’s display of an individual from a distant time will affect the demographics of visitors.

“I think our largest [population of visitors] is from outside of campus, although classes come through the museum as well as some students,” she said.

“Certainly it’s an older demographic, so the students have less of a response to the exhibit than maybe the response their parents would have.”

The exhibit will remain open until Sept. 4, 2011.

After the exhibit closes at Kent, there are plans for it to travel the country. Tickets for the exhibit cost $5, and the museum is open Wednesdays through Fridays.

Hume said that most of the exhibits of Kent State University’s Museum last around 11 months.

“The Katharine Hepburn exhibit has attracted a great deal of interest among the public,” she said. “The attendance is up a great deal since the opening. We expect it to diminish a bit, but then pick back up again before the exhibit closes.”