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Styles Through the Years: Nipmuc Media Center Hosts Faculty Prom Exhibit

Nipmuc Regional High School Library Media Specialist Suzanne Venkataraman stands with the Prom dress that she wore in 1981 during a Faculty Prom Exhibit at the school. Over two dozen dresses and pictures of Nipmuc teachers and staff were on display this month in the Media Center ranging in dates from 1961 through 2006.

With the prom season in full swing, students at Nipmuc Regional High School had the chance to see that they were not the first generation to take part in the time-honored tradition of getting dressed up for their big night.

Since the end of April, the prom dresses and prom pictures from Nipmuc staff members have been on display in the Media Center as part of a historical Faculty Prom Exhibit.

The idea of the exhibit came from Library Media Specialist Suzanne Venkataraman, who wanted the students to see what the teachers and staff wore to their proms.

"I emailed all of the staff, and quite a few of them brought in their old Prom dresses or pictures of themselves at their Prom," said Venkataraman.

Nine prom dresses are currently hanging on display throughout the Media Center, ranging in styles and dates worn from as early as 1981 (Venkataraman's) to 2006 (English Teacher Emma Hensler's). "Although some of these dresses weren't worn that long ago, to the students, these are historical," Venkataraman said with a laugh.

Over a dozen faculty prom pictures were also on display, going as far back as Permanent Substitute Teacher Janice Spencer's, who was crowned Prom Queen in 1961 during Nipmuc High's first official Prom.

The display has been a hit with the students, according to Venkataraman, who said they look at the dresses and pictures and are in awe of the styles over the years. "They think some of the dress styles are funny, but we try to get them to realize that during that time these were the styles that were popular and what was acceptable," she said.

Nipmuc senior Jamie Hill agreed that the students were drawn into the Media Center by the idea of seeing the styles of formal wear change over time.

"The dresses are a lot different now... the necklines, the slits in the leg," she said, comparing the older dresses on display with ones that the girls would be wearing to their May 13 Prom at The State Room in Boston.

The best part of the exhibit, according to Hill however, was looking at the formalwear with a new perspective.

"It is funny to see some of these wouldn't think these teachers would wear these dresses based on their style now," she laughed.

Once the dresses are packed away back into the attic in a few weeks, Venkataraman said she plans to give them a chance to be in the spotlight again next year, and hopes that the students continue to see the exhibit as something more than a fashion show.

"It's about making a connection between history and art," she said.

Jay Ferris, Administrative Assistant in Nipmuc's front office, is seen here in a picture of his 1974 Prom. The photo was on display in the Media Center as part of a historical Faculty Prom Exhibit.


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