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Snellman Hsia Collection & Laboratory

The Collection

Clothing, textiles and other forms of material culture reveal much about the cultural values and expectations of an era. They reflect our social customs, our level of technology, and our economic conditions. Each item tells a complex and fascinating story.

South Dakota State University is home to the Snellman Hsia Collection,which features over 3000 textiles, clothing items and accessories including those of the Alice Johnson Reifel Asian Art Collection and the Fisher Costume and Textile Collection. The diversity of the collection is represented by the Dona Brown Button Collection, the First Ladies of South Dakota Collection, the Mildred White Glass Collection, the Ardyce Gilbert Plate Collection and the Hinsvark Iron Collection.

The collection is used primarily by students majoring in Apparel Merchandising and enrolled in such classes as historic costume, apparel design, aesthetics of dress and ready-to-wear analysis. Research by faculty and staff has resulted in presentations at regional, national and international conferences.

History & How it All Started

The idea for a historic costume collection was conceived by Adaline Snellman Hsia, former Head of the Department of Textiles and Clothing, who envisioned a collection to be used primarily by students in historic costume and apparel design at South Dakota State University. The collection began in 1963, when Mrs. Joe Foss donated a gown worn at her husband's inauguration as governor of South Dakota in 1954. Other inaugural gowns include those worn by Mrs. Hubert Humphrey and Mrs. George McGovern at the Inaugural Ball for President John F. Kennedy in 1961.

The collection's earliest items include an 1840s hand-woven towel, a wedding dress worn in 1857, several Civil War era bonnets and numerous mid-19th century children's clothes; including an 1865 boy's dress, an 1870s day dress, and many late-19th century petticoats, drawers and nightgowns. There are also several outstanding late-19th century capes and outerwear pieces.

Some of the most unique items in the collections include an 1896 original gown by French designer Charles Frederick Worth, an 1898 Spanish-American War Uniform, a 1908 brown plissé maternity gown worn by Mrs. Charles Pugsley when her husband was President of South Dakota State College, numerous 1920s mesh-and-beaded bags, 1950s designer suits and 1960s paper dresses.

Specialized textiles include an 1822 hand woven coverlet, an 1850 pieced quilt, several 1860-1880s paisley shawls, crazy quilts from the 1890s, and many 1890s-1900s crocheted, tatted and hand-embroidered table linens.

Philosophy & Mission

Housed in the Department of Consumer Sciences at South Dakota State University, the Snellman Hsia Collection is designed to fulfill the South Dakota Board of Regents mission, which is to "collect, preserve, display and make available artistic, artifactual, documentary and intellectual materials important to understanding our couture" (BOR, Vision 2000, 1991). In this case, "materials" is understood to mean clothing, accessories, household textiles, and textile equipment. Our Collections are valuable tools used in teaching, research, publicity and display activities within the Department of Consumer Sciences, on campus, and throughout the state of South Dakota.

Collection Objectives

  • To function as a resource to scholars, students and faculty studying social, cultural, technological and historical issues related to dress, textiles and applied arts.
  • To inspire the creation of modern adaptations from historical garments in aesthetic and apparel design courses.
  • To show relationships of fashion to the values, customs and standards of earlier historical periods.
  • To preserve the material culture of early South Dakota history and heritage.
  • To serve as a reference for teaching history of costume and relating it to the social history of a particular era.


Faculty and staff within the Department of Consumer Sciences express sincere appreciation to all the generous contributors to the collections. We are proud to be the conservators of the Snellman Hsia Collection.