Museum Gardens, York – 4 August 2021

Our first event saw us heading out to introduce the project and to offer people the chance to have fun with our handling collection.

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From Art Deco designs to vinaigrettes and vesta cases, from lethal hat pins to the dinkiest of patch boxes, these accessories intrigued many of our visitors. The Victorian skirt-lifter was a particular favourite, as was the 1920s make-up compact, sleekly chic in a startling electric blue.

You really get a sense of the physicality of it. I’ve read about all these things, but it’s lovely to see them – to see what they actually look like.

We couldn’t have been more delighted as groups and individuals engaged with the collection, learning from the objects but teaching us too. In some cases, the items prompted personal recollections.

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This sort of oral history builds bridges between the present and the past, and shows us these little accessories in ordinary lives and everyday experience.

This is absolutely fascinating. It takes me back, it takes me back!

One or two of our visitors began to reflect on objects that had been passed down to them or that they had collected. Our aim in the DMDA is to make it a portal through which individuals can share such items more generally, making it a community exhibition space where images can be uploaded and co-curated.

But other visitors were more practically engaged, trying their hand at patching.

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This activity, designed to celebrate our inaugural room in the DMDA, was our take on the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century fashion of applying facial patches. Today we might call them beauty spots. Originally shapes cut from silk fabrics, we made do with black paper and a hole punch. Top tip: if you want to get into this trend, vaseline will make them stick. 

It really brings history close when you see the things that people would have touched and the way they would have adorned themselves.

Our thanks to our splendid student helpers, without whose enthusiasm and energy we would have been bereft; and to our videographer, both for his excellent film footage and his life-saving gazebo, without which, when the heavens opened, we would have been drowned.

But most particularly, thanks to our wonderful visitors!

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