The Dunstan Vestment at Stonyhurst College -
still used at the Feasts of the Ascension and Immaculate Conception.
A Reluctant Sinner has a post about items of Catholic liturgical heritage being displayed in secular museums. He thinks it would be better if they were displayed in Catholic ones so that there would be some opportunity to explain them properly and even evangelize through them. He acknowledges that these things would be best kept in a church rather than a museum. I completely agree. While I think it would be good to have such things displayed in a Catholic context. I would also hope that many of them could still be used - not all the time if they are fragile and of historical importance but certainly sometimes used for their original purpose.
I heard some talk of turning part of the former seminary at Ushaw into a centre for the study of Catholicism but (depending I suppose on how it could be done) this had the aura to me of relegating the Church to an historical item of interest to be studied but no longer a living thing. Like the Yorvik Viking Centre in York or the Dewa Roman Centre in Chester, with street scenes set up, complete with sound effects. I could picture the Ushaw chapel with manikins set out for High Mass, chant playing in the background and incense being wafted through like dry ice to show how the mighty empire used to look and feel!
Liverpool cathedral has a museum in the crypt with quite a number of beautiful things and I think some of them do get used sometimes. I think this is the way to go. If we have dozens of chalices, mitres, monstrances and crosiers already in our possession, why not use them, instead of paying out for new ones? I think there is sometimes a desire to deliberately relegate anything that looks old - (i.e. traditional and therefore part of our Tradition) to the museum and therefore to the past. This seems so odd when in our homes and every other sphere of life there is a strong desire to connect with the traditions of the past in everything from royal ceremony to retaining period features in our homes.
This should include vestments as well. I recall at seminary in Ushaw, an ancient chasuble worn by one of the English martyrs being brought out once a year to be worn by the visiting bishop offering Mass. It was no longer a thing of great beauty but it was very evocative and so much more important than just surface beauty that it was still being worn. Visiting Stonyhurst College with a pilgrim group, I was able to wear an ancient but splendid cope. Many of their conserved vestments are still used on major feast days.
I visited the shrine of Ladyewell at Fernyhalgh just recently and after the fire they had there some time ago the relic room has been remodeled in a very sympathetic way so that it has the feel of a chapel - even though the relics are displayed and described. It manages to keep a prayerful and devotional feel rather than just a museum. There is a recusant altar there as well which I do hope is used sometimes.
Let's not relegate our living tradition to dusty museums as something to be looked at but not lived. Isn't that what the world wants us to do with the whole of our Glorious Faith?