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.

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

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.

11 Aug

Remembered By Hand: Family Histories Illuminated

The Crazy Quilt Comes to Life

In a blaze of kaleidoscopic color, the late 1870s saw a fad rush in that took the United States by storm.  In a few short years, the crazy quilt was born, reached its zenith, and began a slow descent towards obscurity.  But within those years, the crazy quilt was king.  Magazines raved and shared tips and patterns for quilting.  Companies sold templates for embroidery, appliqués aimed directly at crazy quilters, and even grab bags of crazy quilt fabric.

Most crazy quilts share several characteristics.  First, they are not really quilts at all.  There is no “quilting,” that is to say, no stitching of a top fabric to a bottom fabric through a layer of batting.  Crazy quilts typically had no batting, often were never finished, and where finished had a silk or cotton backing that only loosely connected to the top.  Crazy quilts also typically featured silks and velvets, unlike most patchwork quilts, and elaborate embroidery stitching covered seams within blocks as well as between them.  Many quilts incorporated lace, appliqués, ribbons, hand-painted fabrics, and even beads and mirrors.  They provided women the opportunity to share their needlework skills in a context far more elaborate (dare we say flashy?) than a patchwork quilt or even a sampler.

The Centennial Exposition: Cultural Influences

Though precedents do predate the 1870s, the cultural phenomenon of the crazy quilt emerged directly from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.  This World Fair had a great influence on American culture, with millions visiting the fair and even more exposed to the exhibits through magazine articles.  Among other new trends, the Fair coincided with the first mass-marketing of Japanese culture outside of Japan.  This can be seen in the emphasis on printed fabrics, vibrant and exuberant color, and the many fan motifs incorporated into the quilts.

This exhibit brings together six crazy quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum’s permanent collection.  All of the quilts share characteristics, most notably an emphasis on velvet and silk fabrics and embroidered seams.  However, there are notable differences between the different quilts as well.  Some are backed, while others appear unfinished.  One quilt incorporates small mirrors, another pipe cleaners, and several are hand-painted.   All of the quilts reward close inspection and speak across the 100+ years since their creation to share the stories of their makers.

The preservation of some elements of our quilt collection is funded in part by a grant from the Quilter’s Guild of Dallas, Helena Hibbs Endowment Fund.

This exhibit will be on view from February 7th – February 25th, timed to coincide with quilt exhibitions by the Briscoe Center and the Texas Quilt Museum.

01 Mar

Stitching Memory: American Quilts from the Neill-Cochran House Museum Collection

On Quilts and Stitching Memory

The art of quilting is in many ways the art of stitching memory.  Quilts tell us the stories of families’ lives, both through their use and through their designs.  The quilts in the Neill-Cochran House Museum
collection speak to us of creativity, practicality, and the beauty to be found in the everyday lives of the
artists who produced them.  In some cases, we know a good deal about the quilter, and in others the quilter remains an enigma – anonymous.  In this inaugural exhibit we have placed on display five quilts, which represent different processes (patchwork, applique, and crazy quilting) as well as a variety of
traditional design motifs.  Though very different from one another in appearance and process, all of the quilts on display share great artistic design and detail in the stitching and material choices.

The term “quilt” stems from the Latin culcita, meaning “stuffed sack,” a description of the process of
sewing two or more layers of fabric together to produce a thicker, padded material.  Most quilts have three layers: a quilt top, batting or insulating material, and a back.  Ancient Egyptians produced the
earliest-surviving quilts, though the process is thought to stretch into pre-history.  During the 11th century, quilting came to Europe from the Middle East.  Europeans used quilts not just for bedding, but in clothing as well; knights wore quilted garments under their armor for additional protection and padding.

The art of quilting came with immigrants to the American Colonies.  For early American Colonial women, quilting was a practical means of producing bedding with remnant fabric either left over from another project or salvaged once it no longer served its original purpose.  Remnant fabric even found its way into batting.  Over time, quilts became increasingly elaborate in design, and many were virtuoso displays of both creativity and technique in needlework.

For generations of American women, producing quilt tops was a vital part of building their trousseaus; they finished the quilts after they married and as their families grew.  And quilts were active participants in the story of American migration.  When Abraham Lincoln enacted the Homestead Act of 1862, and Americans began preparations, travel guides encouraged families to carry enough fabric to produce 2-3 blankets or quilts per traveler for the passage across the continent.

As time passed, and the Industrial Revolution brought store-bought products within reach of a larger number of Americans, for wealthier women the tradition of quilting became more a labor of love than of necessity, while it remained a household necessity of others.  Quilts became educational resources in classrooms, depicting alphabets, solar systems, and constellations.  Families also produced quilts to
commemorate significant events such as births and weddings.  The crazy quilt, which is not a true quilt as it contains no batting, dates to this time period when many quilters approached quilting as fabric
scrapbooking.

The Neill-Cochran House Museum quilts date from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s, a time that saw virtuoso skill and craftsmanship as well as a rapidly changing material world.  All of the quilts feature machine-produced fabrics, arranged with great care.  Whether elaborately stitched into a crazy quilt or precisely cut and pieced for an appliqué or patchwork quilt, these objects are a testament to the lives and art of the women who produced them.

 

Installation - Patchwork Installation - Lone Star Installation - Dresden Plate Installation - Crazy Installation - Applique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exhibit is free with any museum admission and on Sunday, March 6th for Sunday Funday.

Join us for a special, behind-the-cordons reception Tuesday, March 8th to benefit our fundraiser with Amplify Austin.