I spent July in very hot Greensboro NC on a residency at Elsewhere the extraordinary Living Museum . Within three days of arrival we were asked to put forward a proposal for a project to be undertaken. Duely I spent time thinking it out and thinking it through, then discussing it with Rob Peterson, the Production Director. All was good, but just as we parted he glanced a tad despondently at a wall rack of ties and mused that the ties need a new life.
Being interested in logic, classification, cladisitc trees and such (having been a zoologist in a previous life), I fancied that the application of the Dewey Decimal system to the tie collection might give interesting results – a Tie Library, no less.So down they came and proved to be in a fairly disheveled state. Some were washed, all were ironed.
The ironed ties were then sorted by type of tie: Zipper-tie, clip-on or regular long tie. A fourth category, for bow ties, was set up in honour of Grant Heaps, who defied the temperature and always appeared perfectly turned out in a long-sleeved shirt and neat bow tie, despite no bows having turned up. The long ties were sorted by fibre content; the largest group being the ‘unlabeled’ category.
Once sorted the ties were individually labeled with a number.
With a number the ties could not escape, each was recorded in a spreadsheet and classified according to state of preservation, type, fibre, colour, pattern, maker and other labels, price, sartorial advice and width. All the ties were then individually photographed.
The ties from the wall gave me my first two or three hundred, then I was brought reports of a nest of ties in the Wardrobe room; a room so full of clothes it was very hard to extract a garment unharmed. There below a rack I found the ties; more and more of them. Every time I stepped into the room more emerged from hiding places under things. After the five hundredth I dared not put my nose round the door again.
So now I have massive quantities of digital data to deal with. The first outcome of all this was a set of four postcards from some drawings I made.
Now Im working on making a complete catalogue of the Archive which will be published in due course. Also working out how to date the ties.
I have to acknowledge wonderful, helpful conversations with professional librarian Suzi Posa who had just moved to Greensboro and came to check out Elsewhere, and with Dave (the dog owner) who turned out to be most knowledgeable on tie history, as well as all the interest from other passing people and, of course, the denizens of Elsewhere.