Sunday, July 9, 2017

...a devil, a snake, a tongue-twisting hippo, and a funeral procession: American folk art at its best...




Devil Bootjack 1850-1875
Part of our Colonial Williamsburg experience was attending the art museums. Before I mention that, Ms. Misantropia asked why I continually write “Colonial Williamsburg” instead of simply “Williamsburg.” Having grown up in the region, I sometimes forget to spell out exactly what I mean when writing about places that are so familiar to me.
Colonial Williamsburg is a living-history museum that includes recreated colonial houses, taverns, and buildings based on what the colonial city looked like. It is filled with interpreters dressed in colonial attire. It is a privately funded and actually came about with one of the reverends of Bruton Parish Church working with the Rockefeller family in the 1920s.  


 

While strolling through the town, a visitor can learn about the historic homes, some of which are from the colonial era with others being recreations; one can learn about the trades of the time. My fella always says that he wants to go watch shoes be made. The coffin picture from my last post was part of the cabinetmaker shop where you can watch interpreters who are also experts in designing furniture using colonial era tools and practices. Here is an interactive map for those who are a bit more curious about the place.

Mourning ring
Colonial Williamsburg is a popular destination for school trips; and, growing up so close to the location, I can recall several middle school trips there and to the surrounding historical locations. The coffin actually fits right into this discussion because while many visitors go to large tourist spots like Colonial Williamsburg, there is always a bit of dark tourism to be had.

This was the first time my fella and I have made a plan to attend the Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums. We’ve attended them before but usually do not get very far because we have gone on the last day when it is pretty much time for us to head home. Honestly, we had no idea how amazing the museums would be. We thought Colonial Williamsburg was more about the outdoor museum and had no idea what artifacts would be inside.

Catholic Funeral Procession CA. 1910
Vermont
Unidentified artist
The museums are made up of a folk art museum and a decorative arts museum. I love folk art, especially signage and outdoor fixtures. One exhibit in the folk art museum included “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art” and this delighted me because there was a collection of whirligigs and weathervanes. There was also a carousel in the middle of the exhibit.

Catholic Funeral Procession CA. 1910
Vermont
Unidentified artist





When you enter the museums, you actually enter in what once was the public hospital that treated the mentally ill.  The "Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds" was the first building in North America exclusively devoted to the treatment of those with mental illness with the first patient being admitted on October 12, 1773. Unfortunately, it was raining when we headed to the museums so I did not take a picture of the building but this is the very location that I have written about in a previous post on Patrick Henry’s wife, who ended up living in the family basement since the hospital conditions were so poor.

When you enter the building, there is an exhibit interpreting the mental hospital with haunting voices of past inhabitants crying out for help. The exhibit included diary pages and doctor logs of the patients. In another room, it included artifacts from the period associated with helping those become well including a coffin-shaped cage where inmates patients would be contained if they were violent.

 










Our American history includes some very interesting and strange pieces. 

In this post, I have included some of my favorites from the folk art section which is much more lively than the exhibit.



The hippo record player. The video shows that when it plays, the tongue moves.
video

8 comments:

  1. I love the funeral procession folk art and the carousel!

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  2. Oh and the snake weathervane and devil bootjack!

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    1. I can honestly say that I have never considered a snake as a weathervane.

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  3. What amazing treasures! ^_^

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  4. Hippo!!! As a record player. A-maze-ING.

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    1. I can't get the video to post in the blog but it's on Facebook. It's CREEPY! :p

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