TWO THINGS to be grateful for on this winter afternoon. One, that the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia doesn’t have a cafeteria. It might be hard to chow down on, say, a roast beef sandwich after viewing medical oddities and anatomical specimens. (Even the museum’s website suggests its exhibitions may render a person Disturbingly Informed.)
Two, as we learn from the current special exhibit, “Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work,” that “hair work” was not confined to Victorian-era mourning jewelry. Your loved one could be alive and kicking and still have his or her tresses fashioned into a keepsake attractive enough to mount on a wall. Or a freestanding piece to display under a glass dome, as many Victorian households did.
I’d wager that many of us have viewed these complex compositions in antiques shops without knowing what they are. We don’t see hair; we see bouquets of flowers, intricate small-scale wreaths, hearts formed by connected blossoms, possibly a willow tree weeping into an unseen lake.
Makes a hair clipping in a gold locket seem not so special, doesn’t it.
The hair work on display at the Mütter comes from five private collections that have never before been displayed together. The assemblage is the work of the museum’s special projects manager, Emily Snedden Yates, and specialists/collectors John Whitenight and Evan Michelson.
This hair’s not going anywhere any time soon. The exhibit is open through September 16, 2018.
“Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work,” through September 16, 2018 in the Thomson Gallery of the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103; Monday through Sunday 10am to 5pm; 215-560-8564.