Museum Musings - It may look ratty, but...

Appearances can be deceiving. Don't judge a book by its cover. How often have we heard those phrases? They are very true in the case of this rather aged, ratty looking book. What makes this rather sad-looking book special? Who was the author and what was the subject of the book? What makes this book special is that it was written by a man who had been condemned by the British House of Commons as an Irish Rebel for his "outspoken defense of Irish Catholics and jailed for publishing criticism of Parliament"[1] and was once the property of James Madison, Jr.; Father of the Constitution and Fourth President of the United States. How do we know that the book had belonged to Madison? There i

Museum Musings - Unmentionables?

In preparing for the next exhibit, I needed to do a little research on lady's undergarments, or, unmentionables; as one did not mention these under-garments outside the dressmaker's establishment or within one's dressing room; much less in polite company! There is a great deal of history available on undergarments dating back to the wrap of the Egyptians. That, however, is a little too far back for this exhibit, which will be women's fashions from 1800-1900, with a few unmentionables included. So, why were undergarments created? There are several answers to this - changing a woman's shape, modesty and hygiene. Prior to the very late 1780's early 1790's the wearing of long skirts, a couple

Museum Musings - Empire or Regency?

Historical eras or periods can be confusing. They overlap. They are just slightly different for various categories (i.e., art, music, literature, science and fashion) -- yet sometimes difficult to tell the difference in timeline as things don't always suddenly erupt into being and have evolved from prior efforts and discoveries. Of course there is the human element -- who interprets, who re-visits and researches, who re-writes....lots of ways to confuse readers. Both the Empire and Regency styles were born out of the formal Neoclassicism that dominated late eighteenth century European art and architecture. Even before the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) there was a bitter rivalry between Fra

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