Take a peek inside the Chicago History Museum’s fur vault with costume collections intern Amanda Cacich.
During the past six months, I’ve worked extensively with the objects in the Museum’s fur vault, which is essentially a walk-in refrigerator. The vault holds over 400 artifacts, including furs, ornate tortoiseshell hair combs, and early plastic rain coats. The chilled environment helps preserve the artifacts by slowing down the deterioration of the materials.
I was tasked with completing an inventory of the vault’s contents, which meant several weeks of going through racks of luxurious fur coats owned by some of Chicago’s most affluent women and men. My efforts resulted in updated locations for all of the vault’s items, making them easily accessible for future generations of Museum staff.
While many of the items were made by high-end designers, such as Christian Dior and Fendi, I was captured by the garments with a decidedly Chicagoan provenance, such as two pieces owned and worn by Miss Elizabeth F. Cheney (1902–85). Miss Cheney came from deep Chicago roots. She inherited the Cheney Mansion in Oak Park from uncle and aunt, Andrew and Mary Dole, and founded the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation shortly before her death to support the arts and cultural institutions of Chicagoland, reflecting her lifelong interest in this field.
I have to provide a disclaimer that I, personally, am not particularly fond of the fur industry. But if I had to own a fur coat, it would be one of these. Now about those furs . . .
Picture it: Red-brown mink with silk lining and a shawl collar. This coat looks like it just came off the back of a 1950s Hollywood starlet, fitting for a garment that bears the label of an iconic Chicago institution.
> Read the rest of this entry