Symposium | Threads of Feeling Unraveled

Posted in conferences (to attend) by Editor on July 27, 2013

From the conference program:

Threads of Feeling Unraveled

Threads of Feeling Unraveled
DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, 20–22 October 2013

In association with the loan exhibition Threads of Feeling, which opens at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum on May 25, 2013, Colonial Williamsburg is hosting a symposium that will explore these objects in context. When a mother left her infant at the Hospital during the mid-eighteenth century, she sometimes provided a token that was attached to the paper record, allowing her to later identify and reclaim her own child if her circumstances improved. Most of the tokens took the form of scraps of fabric, ribbons, or cuttings from the baby’s own clothing, identified in the record by their period names. The textile swatches are an invaluable source for identifying everyday textiles and the clothing of infants. As part of the symposium, exhibit guest curator and noted author John Styles will present two lectures. His keynote lecture will give a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the development of the Threads of Feeling exhibition that received rave reviews in London. Styles will also discuss the history of the Foundling Hospital, the London scene, what is known about the identity of the infants, and the various meanings that can be unraveled from the evocative tokens. Other lectures will discuss clothing for infants and children, what women wore during pregnancy, childhood and orphans in America, and the use of similar textiles by adults in Britain and America.

The Threads of Feeling exhibition was organized by the Foundling Museum in London and curated by John Styles. The artifacts are owned by the Thomas Coram Foundation and stored at and cared for by the London Metropolitan Archives.

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5:30  Introduction, Linda R. Baumgarten (curator, textiles and costumes, Colonial Williamsburg)

5:40  Creating the Threads of Feeling Exhibition, John Styles, (Research Professor in History, University of Hertfordshire, and Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum)

6:30  Opening reception

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9:30  Welcome, Ronald Hurst (vice president, collections, conservation, and museums, and Carlisle Humelsine Chief Curator, Colonial Williamsburg)

9:40  Desperate Mothers, Abandoned Babies, and Showy Textiles: London and its Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century, John Styles

10:30  Coffee break

11:00  Children in American History, Steven Mintz (director, Institute for Transformational Learning, University of Texas, Austin)

12:00  Children at Home: The Material Culture of Childhood in Early American Interiors, Amanda C. Keller (assistant curator, historic interiors and household accessories, Colonial Williamsburg)

12:30  Lunch — John Styles, Linda Baumgarten, and Kimberly Smith Ivey will be in the exhibition Threads of Feeling, and the Textile Study Drawers will be open for viewing.

2:30  Orphans in America, Cathleene Hellier (historian, Colonial Williamsburg)

3:30  Afternoon refreshments

4:00  “Stitched in Adversity”: British, Asylum, Orphanage, and Charity School Samplers of the 18th and 19th Century, Becky Scott (Manchester, England)

5:00  A Charitable Society in London. Governor Francis Fauquier of Williamsburg, portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg’s Dennis Watson, will introduce us to the circle of esteemed philanthropists surrounding London’s most fashionable charity of his day, The Foundling Hospital. In a performance combining music and conversation, Governor Fauquier, who sat on the Foundling’s board of Governors prior to his move to Virginia, will describe the Foundling’s public reception and popularization through the involvement of respected Londoners including the devoted services of artist William Hogarth, a fundraising concert by Handel, and numerous influential public figures of the day.

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9:30  Dressing Mothers and Children: Colonial Williamsburg Collections, 1700-1800, Linda R. Baumgarten (curator, textiles and costumes, Colonial Williamsburg)

10:30  Coffee break

11:00  “Lately Imported”: Rebuilding a Visual Lexicon of American Indentured and Enslaved Women’s Dress, Rebecca Fifield (collections manager, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

12:00  Lunch — John Styles, Linda Baumgarten, and Kimberly Smith Ivey will be in the exhibition Threads of Feeling, and the Textile Study Drawers will be open for viewing.

2:00 A Chronicle of the Foundling Hospital’s Early Years Described by John Brownlow – Secretary. This presentation by a character interpreter portraying John Brownlow, Secretary of the Foundling Hospital, will illustrate the early history of the hospital and its practices by examining a single fictional but typical case study: the life of the young woman and her child. Presented by the Costume Design Center in collaboration with Historic Trades Millinery and Tailor Shop and with the assistance of Historic Trades Wig and Shoe Shop staff.

3:00  Afternoon refreshments

3:30  Threadbare: Orphans and Children in French Colonial Louisiana, Sophie White (associate professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame)

4:15  A Musical Thread, John Watson (curator of musical instruments) explores the role keyboard instruments played in the education and ‘accomplishments’ of girls with special mention of G.F. Handel’s concerts to benefit the Foundling Hospital.

4:30  Opportunity to see the keyboard exhibit with curator John Watson

4:30  Closing reception

7:00  The Unwanted. In this dramatic portrayal, three 18th-century women reveal the heartbreak and the hope of mothers whose circumstances lead them to relinquish their infants. A worker at London’s Foundling Hospital, a Virginia midwife, and a mother with no other options all share a common concern for the fate of ‘the unwanted’. Written and performed by Colonial Williamsburg’s Abigail Schumann.

W E D N E S D A Y ,  2 3  O C T O B E R  2 0 1 3

Optional Activities – no registration required

10:00 – 12:00  Token Making. Drop by the Education Studio and create a token inspired by the exhibition Threads of Feeling. Using a variety of supplies, such as ribbons, thread, linen, and punched paper, participants will create a token based on an object in the Folk Art Collection to keep or gift. Christina Westenberger (assistant manager, museum education, Colonial Williamsburg)

Optional Activities – registration required

10:00 – 12:00  Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. Inspect the newest assortment of fashionable childbed linen, clothing, and accessories suitable for every little one’s needs. Participants will make a silk pincushion for a new baby and its mother, or a silk cap for the special infant. Bring your needles, thimble, and scissors and we’ll provide sewing silks, pins, wool, and silk. Milliners and mantua-makers of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades department.

10:15-11:00  Tour the Costume Design Center where clothing is created and maintained for Colonial Williamsburg’s costumed staff. This 45-minute tour guided by Design Center staff will explore all aspects of the facility which manufactures period attire for the Revolutionary City, Preservation Virginia at Jamestown, and all Colonial Williamsburg programing, covering over 350 years of Virginia history.

Tour of Quilts in the Baltimore Manner. Kimberly Smith Ivey. Kim will lead a behind-the-scenes tour of Baltimore
Quilts, discussing the achievements of talented textile artists who combined traditional quilt making skills with
the latest innovations. She’ll point out favorites, retell family stories, and discuss the symbolism found in the appliqued motifs. Participants will learn how exhibitions are planned, in addition to the special preparations and mounting techniques employed in the installation of a quilt exhibit.

Tour of Textile Storage. Linda R. Baumgarten. Linda will lead an informal tour of textile storage in Colonial Williamsburg’s state-of-the-art facility at Bruton Heights. Participants will have the opportunity for a closeup look at bed quilts, counterpanes, and selected costumes ranging from the 17th century through to the 20th century.

Behind the Scenes in the Textile Conservation Laboratory. Loreen Finkelstein, conservator, textiles, Colonial Williamsburg. Loreen will lead a behind-the-scenes costume and textile conservation laboratory tour. Participants will learn about on-going treatments and mounting techniques for upcoming exhibitions. You may bring one item needing care to share with the group.

A London Orphan in Williamsburg: Thomas Everard. On a guided tour of the Thomas Everard House, site supervisor, Gene Mitchell, will discuss this highly respected member of the community who even served as Williamsburg’s mayor in 1766 and 1771. This however was a world away from his orphaned childhood in London at Christ’s Hospital, an institution with a particular devotion to equipping the poor youth with a practical education.

11:30-12:15  The 45-minute programs repeat.

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