Born 3 February 1944 in Kennelbach near Bregenz, Austria
Died 15 May 1997 in Bolzano/Bozen
Founder of the Women’s Museum of Merano
Born in Kennelbach near Bregenz, Evelyn Ortner came to Merano in 1968 and made a second life there.
Inspired by her Aunt Mali, a milliner, and by her Viennese grandmother, she had developed an aesthetic sense very early, along with her love of textiles and the gorgeous fashions of bygone eras. At 17 Evelyn began to collect clothing and accessories. A small pearl-embroidered bag acquired at a flea-market was the start of a collection which would grow to contain countless exhibits.
In the 1980’s she decided to turn her passion for collecting into a career and opened the first Second-Hand-Shop in South Tyrol, which she named “Petersilie” (“Parsley”).
Evelyn Ortner gradually became an expert in the fields of costume and textiles. Her collection of old clothing and accessories grew constantly, but in contrast to most collectors she did not merely hoard her treasures for her own enjoyment, but dreamed of using them to bring women’s history vividly to life.
The idea of opening a museum for the items of clothing, and thereby presenting women’s history by way of fashion, stayed with her. In 1988 she found an appropriate space under the arcades of Merano and opened her “Museum für Kleid und Tand” (Museum of Clothing and Bric-a-brac). Her enthusiasm and delight in the smallest detail and her vision of the whole infected others as well. Eventually the Museum became a recognized public institution of the country.
Increasingly, the correlation of fashion to women’s changing roles and emancipation became the Museum’s focus. Since the beginning of the 1990’s the Museum has been regarded as a unique treasure. Its historical fashion retrospectives and especially its travelling exhibitions have made it known far beyond the borders of South Tyrol.
Evelyn Ortner was consistently supported by women who felt a special affection for the Museum. In 1993 the organization »Frauenmuseum – Die Frau im Wandel der Zeit« (Women’s Museum – Woman Through Changing Times) was founded, and the museum was renamed after it. Evelyn Ortner became director of the Women’s Museum. Each year she redesigned the showcases of the permanent exhibits, each year she she curated a special exhibition. It was during this period that the Museum definitively gained entry as a full-fledged member of the museum world.
In 1994 a generous gift of the most varied costumes and accessories expanded the collection to represent 200 years of women’s history. A neccesary expansion of the facilities was also made possible.
In May 1997 Evelyn Ortner succumbed after a long battle with cancer. A fascinating woman has left us her vision and the result of her work, a legacy we shall tend and continue to develop in her spirit.
The work of the “Evelyn Ortner Women’s Museum” (as it is called today) is multifaceted and interdisciplinary. Thorough knowledge of general history and the history of costume, culture, and technology, as well as of political science and sociology, is necessary to reconstruct and depict through exhibitions the lives of women over the past 200 years. It is at once museum work and scholarship, a confrontation with the present and its roots in the past.
(trans. Joey Horsley)
Frauenmuseum Evelyn Ortner.
http://www.museia.it/, last checked on 12.05.2017.
enzo: Merano Meran 70 – Evelyn Ortner.
http://www.merano70.it/2015/03/evelyn-ortner/, last checked on 12.05.2017.
For more information see the German version!
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