05 Jun

Booth’s Richard III

In 1861, John Wilkes Booth was an admired touring actor. Four years later he will become one of America’s most detested villains. Using Booth’s original promptbook and 19th century original practices, the Hidden Room Theatre will resuscitate the ghost of his infamous Richard, and examine the dangers of division, reckless rhetoric, and radicalization.

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30 May

Beyond Function: The Art of the Folding Fan

Beyond Function: The Art of the Folding Fan

On view May 23 – September 2, 2018

FAN, noun [Latin vannus.]

  1. An instrument used by ladies to agitate the air and cool the face in warm weather. It is made of feathers, or of thin skin, paper or taffeta mounted on sticks, etc.
  2. Something in the form of a woman’s fan when spread, as a peacock’s tail, a window, etc.
  3. An instrument for winnowing grain, by moving which the grain is thrown up and agitated, and the chaff is separated and blown away.
  4. something by which the air is moved; a wing.
  5. An instrument to raise the fire or flame; as a fan to inflame love.

Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 edition

What is a fan?  The word sparks immediate associations – blades that, when in motion, provide a cooling breeze.  In that moment, the moment when you first thought “fan,” you likely didn’t think of courtship or etiquette.  Or fashion.  Or social or economic status.  All of these uses take the folding fan far beyond the utilitarian and practical function of a cooling breeze.  But step back in time to read Noah Webster’s 1828 definition, and all of those associations come to life.

The fan first came to Europe in the 16th century.  Europeans had fanned themselves before then, but the introduction of Eastern handscreens and folding fans elevated the fan as an object to something beyond the practical.  Within a century, fans had become necessary accessories for royalty and wealthy Europeans. 

At the same time, folding fans were objects of great monetary value.  Beautiful, intricately carved ivory, tortoise shell, and bone sticks were imported to Europe by the East India Company and others and combined with beautifully painted vellum or silk leaves.  Often silver and gold paint adorned the leaves, and sometimes gems were inset into the guard sticks.

As time passed, fans became more eclectic.  Painted vellum and paper leaves were joined by silk and lace leaves studded with sequins, and into the 20th century dramatic floral fans designed to make a statement across the room joined more art nouveau restrained designs.

Returning to our original question – what is a fan?  While its function may define it, after viewing this exhibit you may believe that function is only the beginning.

Fan 2 clean(1)
Fan 6 clean
Fan 4 clean
Fan 8 clean
28 Feb

The War at Home: World War I Comes to Texas

Texas and the Great War

On June 28, 1914, a Serbian terrorist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, along with his pregnant wife Sophie, in Sarajevo.  This single, albeit horrific, event over 5,000 miles away from Austin, Texas reverberated across the world as much of Europe became embroiled in war.  Americans watched from the sidelines for over two years as hundreds of thousands died, hoping to avoid military engagement while providing supplies to the Allied forces of France, Britain, and Belgium.

When this all changed in early 1917, Texas found itself at the heart of the United State’s decision to go to war.  In January 1917, German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmerman sent an encoded telegram to the President of Mexico in which he encouraged Mexico to join the Central Powers in exchange for support in the reconquest of parts of the United States once claimed by Mexico (Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona).  Intercepted and decoded by British cryptographers, the “Zimmermann Telegram” was the fuse that compelled Congress to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

Over the eighteen short months the United States was at war, 4.7 million Americans served.  53,402 soldiers were killed in action, while even more (63,114) died of disease or other causes, the vast majority from the Spanish Flu epidemic.  Here in Texas, 198,000 were in the armed forces along with 450 women who served as nurses.  Over 5,000 Texans died, more than one-third succumbing to Spanish Flu without ever deploying to Europe.

This exhibit takes us back in time 100 years to life as experienced by Texans during World War I.  The war was disruptive to family life in many ways.  Enlistments certainly separated families, but everyday life was also impacted in many ways, from pressure to purchase war bonds, to the impact of the Spanish Flu, to a certain level of militarization of society, and food rationing.  Finally, the image of the “dough-boy” that has come down to us today is of a white American soldier.  Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, and German-Americans in many ways struggled to prove their Americanness while the country was at war, a struggle that was as acute in Texas as in the rest of the country.

The Cochran family lived in our historic house throughout the war era.  Thomas B. Cochran had died in 1913, but his wife and five children (three daughters and two sons) all participated in the war effort in some way.  Using their experience as well as the experiences of other Austinites as a guide, we explore the impact of the Great War on the lives of the people who remained on the home front and the relationships they maintained with soldiers who served elsewhere and abroad.

Service Flag
Red Cross Deep Eddy
Negros Hold Thrift Stamp Rally
cochrantb

Opening Lecture: The Great War Effort

Dr. Scott Wolford, University of Texas at Austin

Presented in partnership with the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion, join us and Dr. Wolford for a discussion of the role that everyday Americans played in the nation’s efforts during the Great War.

17 Aug

Is Now The Dream?

From the other side of the world

“Though these are but the faces of dolls, I am entranced with their unique expressions, and the secrets and mystery they suggest. It is left to the imagination to flesh out each one more fully and hear her poetry from across the centuries.”

– Pat Brown

Is Now the Dream? Hina-ningyō Portraits + Landscapes, on display in our downstairs gallery from January 17th through May 6th, features the work of Pat Brown, a local Austin photographer, who explores the cultural aesthetic of Japan, both past and present.

Hina-ningyō—hand-crafted Japanese dolls collected by the photographer—represent members of the Japanese imperial courts. The photographer’s work brings out the unique expressiveness in each doll, revealing the human and poetic dimensions of their unchanging and timeless expressions.

The title of the exhibit is taken from a poem written by a woman who served in the court of Empress Tokoku, who lived in the 12th century. Describing the decline of her court and thus her way of life, she writes:

Is now the dream?
or was long ago the dream?
I wander on, lost—
unable to convince myself
that this is reality.

Landscape and architectural photographs of Japan round out the exhibit, suggesting what one might have seen during the Edo period prior to Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan to the West in the 1850s, and thus, at the same time Abner Cook was completing our historic house in a young Austin, Texas.

ReceptionFeb. 3 (3)
Kita-Ku, Kyoto
Lady Izumi
Mount Fuji from Hakone
ReceptionFeb. 3 (5)
Prince Kinashikaru
Black Pine - Takayama
Ono no Komachi
ReceptionFeb. 3 (2)
Chiyojo II
Blossoming Tree - Takayama - Hachikemmachi
The Shinkyo Bridge Spanning the Daiya River, Nikko II

Is Now The Dream? Opening Reception: Saturday, February 3rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

Join us and local photographer Pat Brown from 4pm to 6pm on Saturday, February 3rd for a special look at this exhibit. Complimentary refreshments served.

15 Aug

Experience’s Treasures

What our collections say about who we are

Why do we collect? What do we collect? What does it mean to have a collection? In an age defined by consumerism and the easy availability of things, how do we determine which objects we will carry with us through life?

Consider it from our perspective: the only reason that the objects in our collection (whether they date from the nineteenth century or before) have survived is because they were prized for their beauty, their inherent monetary value, their utility, or because of their owners’ sentimental attachments. In most cases, objects fit into more than one category and serve to show us the human dimensions of their particular histories.

The Sonnenberg collection, on display in our gallery from September 2nd through December 17th, presents a century of one family’s collecting, and explores the ways in which the objects we hold on to document our interests and our journeys through life. Throughout their lives, the objects the Sonnenbergs have prized are not simply things, they are signposts for meaning in both relationships and experiences. An eclectic collection that features fine art, folk art, and ephemera, Experience’s Treasures will challenge viewers to consider our relationship to the objects that surround us in our own lives.

Basket Small
ExperiencesTreasures
Ark small
Women small
Uncle Sam small
Sailor small
Dates
Rooster Small
Reception
Coyote small
Ceramic Guys Small
Bowl small

Experience's Treasures Opening Reception: Saturday, September 23rd 4:00 to 6:00pm

We invite you to join us for an evening of conversation about the questions we raise in this exhibit. Complimentary beverages served.

11 Aug

Friends Trip – Granite and Green Mountains: American Art and History Up East

Join the Friends of the Neill-Cochran House Museum for a six-day adventure in the history and artistry of New England.

The granite of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont embraced an impressive range of artistry around the turn of the 20th century, including poets Robert Frost and E E Cummings; painters Winslow Homer and Maxfield Parrish; and America’s foremost sculptor in this period, Augustus St Gaudens, who anchored an artists’ colony at Cornish. An itinerary related to these figures will complement visits to famed houses from Georgian times to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Itinerary Overview –  June 25-30, 2017

Portland, Maine

City Tour
Wadsworth-Longfellow House (1785ff., childhood home of the famous poet)
Portland Museum of Art with special private visit to Winslow Homer’s Prouts Neck Studio
Portland Head Light

Portsmouth

McPhaedris-Warner House (1716, earliest urban brick house in northern New England)
Moffatt-Ladd House (1763 elegant Georgian mansion; Portsmouth furniture; NSCDA property)
Lunch with New Hampshire Colonial Dames
Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion (1740ff., harbor-side home of first royal governor)

Lake Champlain

Shelburne Museum of Art (exceptional fine art and vast collections of American material culture)
Vermont State Capitol at Montpelier

Dartmouth, Cornish, Plymouth, Windsor

St Gaudens Studio (home, studio and gardens of America’s greatest 19th-century sculptor)
Cornish-Windsor Bridge over the Connecticut River (longest wooden covered bridge in the US)
Calvin Coolidge Homestead (1870? boyhood home and site of Coolidge’s Presidential oath-taking, 1923)

Manchester

Currier Museum of Art, internationally renowned collection of European and American art    Zimmerman House (1950, Frank Lloyd Wright), observing the Wright 150 Robert Frost Farm (time permitting)

Featured Historic Hotels

2 nights in Portland at historic Regency (1895) in the Old Port District
3 nights at Inn at Mill Falls, Meredith NH, on Lake Winnipesaukee

Other inclusions

Porterage, breakfast daily, 2 lunches, 3 dinners, all ground transportation (chartered coach daily), museum admissions, guides and gratuities

Additional Costs

$200 gift to support operation and programs of the historic Neill-Cochran House Museum (Abner Cook, 1855)
Airfare via United Airlines (schedule pending) via Portland and/or Manchester; travel protection

Click Here to download a form with more information, including notes on different costs and accommodations. Then be sure to reserve your spot by mailing the printed form and your deposit to:

Karen Bluethman, Heart of Texas Tours
8501 Silver Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78759

Have questions or concerns? Contact Karen Bluethman at (512) 345-2043 hottours@sbcglobal.net.

11 Aug

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live: The Culture of Weddings from 1850-1950

Invitation

The meaning of getting married

The American Wedding evolved alongside the material culture and social norms of the United States and the individual communities within it. The wedding ceremony did not exist as a fixed concept in most people’s minds until the middle of the 19th century. Weddings were the pragmatic products of their immediate environment rather than public celebrations–and displays of wealth.

This exhibit traces the culture of weddings as they took place in Texas from the beginning of the wedding as a common set of standards in the 1850s to the dawn of the more public and elaborate wedding that we experience and know today in the 1950s. Incorporating period textiles as well as original texts on the planning of weddings in the 19th century and the etiquette of courtship, we turn our focus not only on the material aspects of weddings but also on the social context in which men and women were married. As the setting and styling of the wedding evolved, so did common ideas of what men and women ought to do–including whether their love for each other was an indispensable part of a good marriage.

From the pragmatic ceremony staged at home (and sometimes without a minister or member of the clergy) to the publicly advertised gathering at a large civic space and from the practical union of a man to a woman whose vocation was the rearing of children to the centering of love and romance in the common understanding of weddings, we get married just as we live. The more we look at the historic context of weddings, the more we see that the way we understand the symbolism, pragmatism, and social implications embedded within the moment at which a marriage begins is not absolute but rather anchored in our own present.

Cake Topper Final
Jones Wedding Dress (with bride, too) (657x900) (2)

The Woman Must Marry, Else How Live? Opening Reception, Thursday, March 2nd, from 6:00 to 9:00pm

Amplify Neill-Cochran with complimentary cocktails by Freedmen's, a history of weddings, and live demonstrations of History Lab experiments.

We’re opening this exhibit in conjunction with our fundraising efforts for Amplify Austin 2017. (Read more about Amplify Austin here) Proceeds we raise during this event will go towards our $3,000 goal to fund another year of History Lab, our free, hands-on take on the history of technology and the arts.

We’ll be accepting live donations during the event by credit card, but you can also schedule your donation online anytime before March 3rd at 6:00pm.