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Clarke Alumna Curates Smith College Exhibits

Meet Clarke alumna, playwright and Smith College student Emma O’Neill-Dietel.

As a STRIDE scholar at Smith College, Emma conducts research with the head of the Costume Department, and has been curating exhibits as an intern for the Smith College Historic Clothing Collection. Her current collection highlights embroidery.

“I was inspired to create this exhibit on embroidery because I have recently taken up embroidery in my spare time and have spent hours absolutely mesmerized by the intricacies of embroidery that I saw in the collection,” explains Emma. “My previous exhibits have covered subjects ranging from a history of women’s hats from the last century to the differences in style among women from different socioeconomic groups in the 1910s.”

Diagnosed as hard of hearing as a newborn, Emma began receiving early intervention services from Clarke when she was one. She progressed rapidly, entering a mainstream school in preschool, then receiving mainstream services from Clarke Philadelphia in middle school. Emma went on to the distinguished Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia, where she earned 3.9 grade point average.

A true scholar, Emma has quickly made this internship project her own, curating a selection of this historic collection in the digital space.

“My advisor, Kiki Smith, is the head of the costume department at Smith and gave me the freedom to explore parts of the collection that interested me,” says Emma. “By the end of my first semester, I decided that the way I wanted to serve my internship was to bring the collection to the public. I also run the SCHCC Instagram (@schistoricclothing) which makes the collection accessible to a wider audience beyond Smith.”

In addition to her academic work and inspiring research, Emma is an accomplished playwright, actor and violinist.

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Smith College Historic Clothing Collection Presents: “Embroidery: The Intersection of Art and Intimacy”

View photos here

Since the popularization of embroidery in ancient Europe, embroidery (along with knitting, sewing and other needle arts) has been predominantly created by women. Because of this fact, handwork such as embroidery has been relegated to merely a woman’s pastime instead of an art form. Embroidery was, and continues to be, a way for women to connect with each other as well as a way to embellish their clothing. Many of the following embroidered garments are works of art that showcase the intimacy of women’s embroidery.

Exhibit by Emma O’Neill-Dietel ‘21

With the guidance of Professor Kiki Smith

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