Exhibit by Rothberg ’15 Juxtaposes Historical, Contemporary Fashion

An exhibit curated by Emma Rothberg ’15 is on display at the Middlesex County Historical Society in Middletown. In “Juxtaposing Likeness: Fashion Accessories from the Collection of the Middlesex County Historical Society,” museum volunteer Rothberg presents about two dozen items from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, including jewelry, hats, spectacles, a silk parasol, fans and a man’s leather billfold from just after the American Revolution. The items are displayed in two glass cases inside the museum.

Rothberg’s exhibit also was featured in a December 2013 issue of The Hartford Courant.

Her exhibit statement reads:

“Clothing, potentially more than other artifacts, can transport us to a time or place that we are otherwise distanced from. Clothing is recognizable. It is no stretch of the mind to imagine putting on a shoe, a skirt, or a hat. That transformative moment is when we remember that under that skirt are a bustle, a hoop, and a pair of pantaloons. What would it be like to wear our everyday outfits with all that extra stuff?

The Middlesex County Historical Society’s textile collection is extensive, spanning time, types and styles. This Exhibition only presents a very small portion of all the artifacts housed upstairs. If anything, this collection is representative of what I felt were interesting examples of accessories; ones that I latched onto. The objects chosen represent what I am calling “juxtaposition”: men’s vs. women’s, adults’ vs. children’s, ornate vs. utilitarian. They are placed next to what I saw as their direct opposite, but there are other connections to be made. I hope each object can tell a small story—whether it is one that the object has already or one that the viewer conjures themselves.”

These spectacles were owned by Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth (July 12, 1743—April 30, 1802) who served as a Revolutionary War soldier and Congressman. After the Revolution, Col. Wadsworth became one of the richest men in Connecticut.

These spectacles were owned by Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth (July 12, 1743—April 30, 1802) who served as a Revolutionary War soldier and Congressman. After the Revolution, Col. Wadsworth became one of the richest men in Connecticut.

The exhibit features this fan with a painted Japanese motif from the late 19th century.  Japanese or Japanese inspired goods became extremely popular in the United States after Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1854 opening of Japan to the West; interest arose acutely during the 1870s.

The exhibit features this fan with a painted Japanese motif from the late 19th century.
Japanese or Japanese inspired goods became extremely popular in the United States after Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1854 opening of Japan to the West; interest arose acutely during the 1870s.

This hair comb dates from the late 19th century. The broach set with hair is marked “Genl. Mansfield Antietam, Md Sept. 17, 1862," and is an example of mourning jewelry.

This hair comb dates from the late 19th century. The broach set is an example of mourning jewelry.

This oval shaped, crystal beaded purse is from the 20th century. It was property of Bessie Ray Camp (1871-1960).

This oval shaped, crystal beaded purse is from the 20th century. It was property of Bessie Ray Camp (1871-1960).

Olivia Drake

Olivia (M.A.L.S. '08) is editor of the Wesleyan Connection newsletter and campus photographer. I have two dogs, five chickens and 30 house plants. I like snow, photographing firemen and enjoying "stinky" cheeses. Send me your story ideas to newsletter@wesleyan.edu. 

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