December 30, 2017

With the delivery of a final project summary from her former assistants, Mrs. M. ————  is delighted to share with you thoughts on the their work in her cabinet last December:

Just last year this time, my seven eager young assistants were concluding research with materials from the collection. In my absence, I greatly enjoyed receiving correspondence regarding their findings – some of which I shared here in my log. At the end of their time studying in my cabinet, each scholar shared their rigorous research through unique displays for all visitors to see. Indeed, sharing the historical work that objects make possible is truly the culmination of all I have wanted for my cabinet. I am indebted to this group of creative minds. To hear them speak more in depth on their installations and discoveries, please enjoy this wonderful review!

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September 15, 2017

Regarding the recent salons in her cabinet, Mrs. M. ————  is delighted to share with you her impressions and thoughts:

Amidst my object studies and travels I have made a great many friends and acquaintances just as charmed and inspired by collecting as myself. In my absence, I’ve been quite delighted by their willingness to host salons surrounding the wonderful materials I have gathered. 

Last December, my dear friend and colleague Dr. Sarah Beetham convened a gathering in my cabinet where much was discussed about the ability of objects to transcend time—a facet of collecting I enjoy greatly. The discovery of the history of an object in my collection only makes it all the more relevant and interesting when considered here in our present. It is only from interacting with these objects that we begin to understand their layered histories today and possible futures in my cabinet and beyond!

Just last April again, another quite esteemed and knowledgeable friend of mine, Dr. Laura Johnson spoke in my cabinet on the language of gems and jewels. Not unlike the language of flowers I’ve used to critique a vexingly patriotic vase in my office, hidden messages abound in these items and it is only through careful study of their so-called language that we can begin to unravel their implied meanings.

Quite different from the first two delightful salons, just a few weeks ago now, I hosted a wonderful group of young musicians in my cabinet. History and new technologies combined as we listened to the sounds of Roochie Toochie and the Ragtime Shepherd Kings. From such classic ballads and tunes I’ve loved since I was a girl and songs I’d never encountered, to their fascinating recording equipment, it was a night not soon to be forgotten. I’ll scarcely enter my cabinet again without hearing the echoes of their jaunty voices, violin, banjo, and even dare I say, pig!


These salons have brought new life to the objects I collect and serve so well to illuminate the stories the material world may tell us. I look forward to playing hostess to more of my brilliant friends and colleagues as time goes on and I do hope visitors are as delighted as I am by their great success.

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June 3, 2017

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her latest journal entry concerning the new vitrine in the center of her cabinet and the objects displayed within:

My investigations of the puzzle jug have been quite successful. There is nothing quite like unraveling the secrets an object holds — and this jug certainly had quite a few! The more I held this object at first, the more mysterious it became. The lack of a bottom was only the beginning of course. Once I discovered the shape of the double wall though with my new measuring tools, I was able to piece together a pathway from a spout and handle and I believe I’ve finally figured it out.

I am certain that my dear Mr. Bingham will be quite chagrined when I send him my schematic of its inner workings. I’ve included along with it simply the note: “Eureka, indeed!” and I look forward to his response.

For now my investigation may be put to rest, so I’ve moved the puzzle jug to a vitrine in the center of my cabinet. This much closer view along with a copy of my schematic will allow my visitors to truly appreciate the puzzling nature of this lovely nineteenth-century revival piece!

I’ve also done a bit of rearranging in my collection regarding Mr. Bingham’s Tyg. I thought it quite fitting to display the forgery that first began our friendship alongside the object of our latest correspondence.

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April 13, 2017

Regarding the changes to the objects being investigated in her office, Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her journal entry on the progress of her stove design and her next project:

I have finally finished my sketches for my new stove based on this lovely German stove tile! Upon sharing with her my ambitious endeavor to create my own design for a new stove, my Mother wrote to her friends, the Dwyer family in Detroit to request their help. They were intrigued by my inspiration, and in a letter back to me, they shared their enthusiasm to receive my plans! Now all that is left to do is to send them on to The Michigan Stove Company and see what can be done.

In the meantime, while the plans are still being set, I’ve moved the tile to the top of my desk. As it will be some time before my stove is completed, I’ve decided I will take this opportunity to investigate my dear Edward Bingham’s Puzzle Jug.

I’ve purchased some new measuring devices and I am quite ready to unravel the innards of this mysterious object. While I already have a few antique puzzle jugs in my cabinet, I am almost certain there will be some surprises with this new recreation considering the rather confident letter Edward sent along with its arrival.

I look forward to showing Edward I am still just as clever as the day I first noticed his forgery!

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December 16, 2016

While sketching some of Mrs. M. ———— 's objects during her absence in Mexico, one of her assistants came across some writing she did on her newly acquired tyg. Mrs. M. ———— has given her permission to share her notes on the tyg's origin here and welcomes you to learn more about the history behind this fascinating object.

This tyg was made by the talented English potter, my now dear friend, Mr. Edward Bingham at Castle Hedingham in Essex, England sometime between 1870 and 1890. I shall have to contact him for a more precise date now that I know it was his creation. He stylized it to look like other pieces that came out of Wrotham in the seventeenth century, such as the old tyg in my cabinet next to the fireplace.

The charming figure on the front of the tyg is King Henry, or should I say a King Henry. This figure either references King Henry IV of Navarre or King Henry V of England. Based on our dear potter's own origins, I am inclined to assume the latter. In the second half of the nineteenth century a story began circulating that King Henry invented multi-handled cups. The story goes that he stopped at an inn to get something to drink. As the servant girl attempted to hand the king his cup her nerves got the better of her and she spilled his drink on him which ruined his gloves. Perturbed by this, the king set off. When he returned from his hunt he had the royal potters make a multi-handled cup and sent it to the inn in hopes that the extra handle would allow him a more secure grasp at the tyg.

This story, while false, is interesting- I prefer to use the term etiology to describe it. An etiology is the explanation of why something is the way it is, but this doesn't mean the explanation is true... or does it? The tiny king sits atop his handle as if saying, "My presence here is truth!" Each time the story is published or the figure placed on a piece of pottery his influence on the tyg's history becomes greater.

The tyg serves as a reminder to us that etiologies shape our world just as much as histories do. They shape our world and guide our perceptions.

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December 15, 2016

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her reflections on her journey to the Columbian Exposition and a new object she purchased there. She also provided instructions for its display in her absence that one of her assistants has shared here.

I visited the Columbian Exposition and picked up this George Washington vase from an agent of a British fellow by the name of Sydney Starkey. He was ecstatic about this creation, even raving about Starkey's successful patenting of the vase just a year before. I glanced at it myself, and requested a copy for my archives. It is such a peculiar object, I am continuously ruffled by sheer amount of British craftsmanship here at the Exposition.

I was drawn to George's gaze and struck by how unsettled it made me feel, I couldn't escape his stare. The amount of George Washington Character Jugs available for purchase here is astounding! A George for any occasion!

I wonder if George knows the fractured patriotism he now represents... oh how I wish he could encompass a more complete idea of America. Yet, I've never seen George quite in this guise before, perhaps he and his friends belong in my collection for their curiosity alone!

Mrs. M. ————  communicated to one of her assistants that she wished to display George in the style of a miniature diorama to explore her ideas of America as a crucible for the mixing of ideas, people, and not simply the white "New England" she found at the Exposition. Mrs. M. ————  was perturbed by the fractured patriotic narrative present at the Columbian Exposition. Who does George Washington really represent?

By turning George on his head, Mrs. M. ————  feels that she can best express her hopes and desires for her cosmopolitan country by disposing of the racial and cultural biases she witnessed and experienced into a pot where they belong! Mrs. M. ————  notes, that she would now like to "fill" George's head with the "smelting pot"- a wonderful expression she read once in a Ralph Waldo Emerson piece. With this action, Mrs. M. ————  wishes to remain critical of George Washington and the ideals he represents while creating a fruitful progression that includes the viewpoints she's collected from around the world.

"A George for any occasion!"

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December 14, 2016

In regard to the seemingly candid cataclysmic ceramic she has been studying of late, Mrs. M. ————  is delighted to share the deeper significance she has unraveled among the images it depicts.

I have recently acquired a new addition to my collection, the Chicago Pitcher, which has resulted in a revelation. Although I doubt that when Frank Burley designed the pitcher for the Columbian Exposition he could have anticipated my reaction. The vignettes on the pitcher relate many aspects of Chicago's storied history. I find myself particularly drawn to the scene where Catherine O'Leary's cow (supposedly) kicks over the lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire. It has inflamed my own deeply held conviction that women often are the easy scapegoat for events beyond their reach. I have placed the object within my Cabinet in a very specific and intentional environment and invite my dear friends and guests to explore at their leisure, so that they might have the same visceral reaction to the piece as I did upon its purchase.

I ask that you reflect upon the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden and the supposed folly of women that is so often reflected in "cataclysmic" ceramics, such as this pitcher. Upon discovering the hiding place of my object, you will notice a delightfully conceived contraption (if I might say so myself) which, upon activation, lights the pitcher as well as the objects I have placed around it to allude to the argument, which I myself will explain to you at length at my upcoming gathering for friends and family at my home next Saturday. 

The bitten apple and the flames that surround the pitcher remind us of Eve, whose sins would likely lead her to the fires of Hell, as well as to the Great Chicago Fire and the supposed role of Mrs. O'Leary in its beginnings. I find it interesting that so many still wholeheartedly believe in the myth of Mrs. O'Leary, whose cow was said to knock over a lantern in her shed and start the blaze, when it came out not long ago that the scandal of a journalist, Michael Ahern, fabricated the entire tale so that he might increase his newspaper's ratings with a sensationalist story. How is it that it is woman's folly that is the cause of a great many disasters, including in the case of Eve, where her sins bring about the downfall of man? What of Cleopatra, Persephone, Hester Prynne, Tituba and countless others whose stories have become mythologized as examples of women's destructive and immoral nature. This type of scapegoating of women as the harbingers of tragedy and cataclysmic events is found throughout history and literature, and I find great offense in the vilification of womankind in this way.

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December 13, 2016

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her journal entry discussing a complex new object she has received, and the challenges it has presented to her curated collection.

I have received a gift recently, from a dear friend, which is troubling to me. It is a gaudy and ostentatious vase which commemorates the centennial of our nation. The vase consists of three Eagles with shields bearing text which commemorates the centennial. The trouble is this is not an object that I would like to display in my cabinet. The vase does not fit the aesthetic which I have carefully curated for my cabinet. I am hence faced with the task of finding a space for it. The nature of the relationship in question is such that I would be remiss not to display it at all.

I do not object to the idea of commemorating the centennial celebration but the decoration of this vase and the unbridled display of, dare I say, aggressive patriotism is not in keeping with my vision of America nor my vision for my collection. My collection aims to highlight works made by those who are not represented otherwise. This vase, and indeed, the celebration of the centennial, is a celebration which does not represent all of america. Worse than that it hides the history of those who have been here since long before European men set foot on this land. The signing of the Declaration is not a celebratory landmark for the native peoples of this country.

I have recently acquired a copy of The Language of Flowers written by Henrietta Dumont. It is a fascinating look at the meaning one can convey with only a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps there is a way in which I can use this to display this so as to make it clear that this vase does not speak for me. A veiled criticism, but yet not too veiled so as to be passed over entirely. I need to select a grouping of flowers which will convey the idea that this vase hides more history than it represents.

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