sub-sub-sub-series 1 - Betty Kirke records

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Betty Kirke records


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Biographical history

Betty Kirke was born in Milan, MI in 1924. She attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and majored in fashion design. She completed her degree at SUNY, earning liberal arts credits at various colleges and universities.
Kirke worked as a designer of custom-made clothing in California starting in 1949. In 1952, she moved to New York and founded B.L. Griffith Designs, Inc., which manufactured ready-to-wear fashions. She met and married musician and actor Walter Kirke in 1955. In 1972, she closed B.L. Griffith Designs, Inc.
The following year, Kirke started to work as a restorer at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. During this period, Kirke began to learn about and study the designs of Madeleine Vionnet. Kirke became an expert on Madeleine Vionnet, and authored multiple books and articles on her work.
In 1979, Kirke accepted the position of Senior Conservator of the costume and textile collection at The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Kirke also taught in F.I.T.’s graduate program for museum studies from 1985 until 1991.
After her retirement in 1991, Kirke was awarded the 1999 Millia Davenport Publication Award from the Costume Society of America, which recognizes excellence in scholarship in the study of costume.

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The Fashion Institute of Technology was the brainchild of the educator Mortimer C. Ritter and the menswear manufacturer Max Meyer. The school opened in 1944 on the top two floors of the High School of Needle Trades. By 1951, there was enough support for the institute as well as students enrolled to warrant a degree program at FIT. That year, the school was granted the right to award an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. FIT received accreditation in 1957 and introduced a variety of courses, including Liberal Arts. During the 1960s, the curriculum grew to include interior design, advertising, and photography as subjects taught at the school. The following decade saw the school expanding to provide Bachelor's (in 1975) and Master's (1985) degree's, after years of lobbying State University Board of Education. FIT can boast about being the first to offer unique degrees in fields taught no where else in the U.S., such as Toy Design and Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design. There are 48 degree programs in total at FIT as of October 2020.

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