New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

FIT Library Boasts Exquisite, Rare and Primary Research Collections

Because of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Gladys Marcus Library’s exquisite, rare, and primary research collections, its unit of Special Collections and FIT Archives (SPARC) is known to those who study fashion and related subjects throughout the world.

Like the unit’s name, its mission is two-fold. Regarding Special Collections, it acquires, preserves, and provides access to a wide range of primary research materials in their original and digital formats and across many languages and geographical spectra. All acquisitions support one or more curricula offered at FIT. Today, FIT offers

  1. 43 majors over more than 30 fields of practice;
  2. 7 Master degree programs;
  3. 12 Credit-bearing certificate programs; and
  4. 19 Non-credit-bearing certificate programs

Regarding the College Archives, the unit acquires, preserves, and provides access to college records permanently-scheduled for retention or deemed to have enduring, historical value created or received in the course of College business; archival records can be created or received by administrators, staff, faculty, and students.

Fulfilling this mission supports myriad goals in and across FIT units as well as research from those outside the FIT community.

On our 3500 linear feet of shelves, we have approximately

  1. 500,000 original works of art on paper;
  2. 350 manuscript collections;
  3. 7000 monographs;
  4. 600 periodicals titles;
  5. 1060 scrapbooks across 61 scrapbook collections; and
  6. 500 individual shoe prototypes
  7. 240 linear feet of institutional records











Fashion sketch from the Max Meyer sketch collection, circa 1914-1929

All material, or any potential addition to the collection, must possess certain values or qualities. Independently or collectively, those values or qualities include

  1. Historical or research value;
  2. Rarity or scarcity;
  3. Intrinsic or aesthetic value;
  4. Age; and
  5. Monetary value

An item or unit holds historical or research value if it is important to understanding an historical event, a significant issue, or in illustrating the subject or creator. The primary subjects covered in SPARC are Fashion, Costume, and Textiles.

We measure an item’s rarity or scarcity by surveying WorldCat to ascertain an item’s or unit’s accessibility within a geo-proximity to FIT. If fewer than ten (10) copies of an item or unit are accessible in the New York-metro area, or if the accessibility is difficult, then we consider it for inclusion in SPARC. Also, if fewer than 1000 copies were printed or published, we consider it for inclusion. We are proud of making our holdings as liberally accessible as possible to the extent that their security is not jeopardized.

Another important value is intrinsic or aesthetic value; this is found in any physical attribute that must be experienced to understand the original item fully as it relates to its informational value. Glorious examples of items exhibiting intrinsic value include our holdings rendered in the pochoir method of illustration. Pochoir is French for stencil; the color is hand-applied for an intense, saturated effect.












Illustration from Les Robes de Paul Poiret, illustrated by Paul Iribe, 1908

As for the quality of age, we follow the Association of College and Research Libraries guidelines with some self-prescriptions. We use the following schedule when considering the age of an item or unit:

  1. Monographs: Current year-100;
  2. Periodicals: Current year-50;
  3. Moving/dynamic images/sound: Current year-25; and
  4. Still images (prints; negatives; slides; contact sheets; etc.): Current year-10

We evaluate more recent works for intellectual content and consider those items or units produced during WWI (1914-1919) or WWII (1939-1945) and in conjunction with significant local, national, or international events.

Perhaps the least important but correlated value assigned to an item or unit is monetary value. At the end of the day, material is brought into or maintained by SPARC because the cost of losing it is too high and replacing a damaged or lost item is extremely difficult if not impossible.

We also have an active social media presence and are especially excited about making our holdings accessible in this dynamic environment. The department’s blog, Material Mode (, was founded in the spring of 2013 with the mission of highlighting some of the amazing resources held within the unit. Material Mode readers get to glimpse into our vast holdings of original designer sketches, rare fashion periodicals such as Gazette du bon ton and the Czech-language periodical, EVA, which sit alongside limited-edition artist books and historic treatises on etiquette, beauty, dye and textile science, surface design, and world dress.






Selection of photographs of Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon garments and ensembles, Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon collection, 1915-1925

A quote from The Beautiful Fall, Alicia Drake's 2007 recollection of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent as they arrived in Paris as young designers, especially resonates with the unit of Special Collections and FIT Archives: "Designers do not create in a vacuum; they need relentless stimulation, innovation, and objects of fascination to stir the mind.“ Without objects of fascination, new interpretations of them, and new impressions given by them to stir the minds of researchers, we risk stagnation and fail to strengthen the intellectual corpus of fashion studies.

To learn more, please visit our web site at