Monday morning, the quiet Special Collections room in the David O. McKay Library bustled with rows of exotic fur coats and accessories.
These coats came in a large range of shapes, sizes and animal skins and included pieces made from alpacas, raccoons and muskrats.
These coats came from the Copper King Mansion in Butte, Montana. They are part of a clothing cataloging project students and faculty have been undergoing for over a year.
Rusty Jenkins, a sophomore studying apparel entrepreneurship, first learned about the Copper King Mansion during last year’s exhibit of dresses loaned by the mansion for a Special Collections display.
“After I saw it, I immediately knew I wanted to participate once we could go back up,” Jenkins said.
Since then, Jenkins has been involved in the school’s efforts to visit the mansion and catalog its treasures. She has visited the mansion for days at a time and often takes pictures of the items they find, making sure to handle the often fragile objects with extreme care.
JoAnn Peters, a faculty member in the Home and Family department, said a lot of hard work went into preparing the display, and each piece has an interesting and unique history. When she, other faculty and students on the project came across a bright leopard print coat, they thought they had found an actual leopard skin coat. After further inspection, they found it was made from beaver fur dyed to look like a leopard. A Google search by the team revealed leopard print beaver coats often went for prices as high as $3,000.
Peters said the staff came across several similar situations where appearances were deceiving. What looked at first like the coat of dirty dog turned out to be neglected and dirtied wolf fur.
Of all the coats on the display, Jenkins said a short raccoon jacket was her favorite, followed by a Peruvian lambswool coat and hat as well as the wolf coat. She said it’s hard to choose a favorite because each piece is unique and interesting. She loves the coats so much partly because she likes to imagine the people who wore them and the interesting lives they lived.
Adam Luke, the librarian over Special Collections in the McKay Library, said Special Collections is all about preserving and sharing history. To meet this goal they share historical items like the coats. They also hold onto and preserve records and historical data for the school and surrounding area for students and others to access for historical research.
“The whole reason we keep these things is for people to use them and to track local progress and movements over time,” Luke said.