The Sentimental Art of Victorian Hairwork Jewelry

March 24, 2018
6:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Victorians used real human hair to create decorative mementos in honor of their departed loved ones. We’ve teamed up with the Atlas Obscura Society Philly for a special evening dedicated to the art, beauty, and mystery surrounding this historical practice.

Hairwork, the art of using human hair to create jewelry, memorial wreaths, and sculptures, reached the height of its popularity during the Victorian era. The resulting pieces served as links between people that bridged physical distance, time, and even life and death. The durability and resilience of hair as a material resulted in artifacts that often outlasted not only the people who cherished them as mementos but the correlating paper documents that provided historical background.

Join us for the evening’s activities:

  • You’ll learn about the challenges of preserving and presenting this work from Lindsey Jancay, director of collections and programming at Historic Bethlehem Museums.
  • Artist Rebecca Reeves, who draws on Victorian-era mourning symbolism, spiritualism, and superstitions as inspiration, will share her work.
  • And you can share in a light reception as we toast the intriguing ways Victorians celebrated love and remembrance.

This program is presented as part of our temporary exhibition Things Fall Apart, which explores the life and afterlife of things—and why we fight to preserve them.

Registration for this event is required. Tickets are $15 per person.

For more information, contact Alexis Pedrick at apedrick@sciencehistory.org.


About Our Partners

Rebecca Reeves
Rebecca Reeves was born and raised and currently resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Her work has been shown at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and Paradigm Gallery in Pennsylvania, the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts, the Gristle Art Gallery in New York, and in other art exhibitions nationally. Her system of living becomes the foundation for her work. Reeves considers herself the “Collector, Protector and the Keeper” of numerous family heirlooms. Similar to the meticulously detailed Victorian human hair wreaths that represented the family tree, Reeves uses miniature furniture as representation for the objects in her home, her family tree. She draws on the Victorian era, focusing on mourning symbolism, spiritualism, and superstitions as inspiration. Reeves obsessively “cocoons” in thread miniature furniture and doll heads in order to encapsulate her grief, struggle, and suffocation of loss. Through her art she attempts to preserve her family’s memories and stories in order to control their decay. 

Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites
Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites is anonprofit organization that proudly preserves and maintains 20 historic sites, including 2 National Historic Landmarks, 7 gardens, 5 ruins, 1 orchard, and 60,000 artifacts. The mission of Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites is to bring history to life by educating the public about Bethlehem’s rich heritage, by preserving historic sites, and by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting historical and artistic objects that can be used to tell the stories of Bethlehem’s people.

Atlas Obscura Society Philly
The Atlas Obscura Society is the real-world exploration arm of Atlas Obscura. We seek out secret histories, unusual access, and opportunities for our community to explore strange and overlooked places hidden all around us in Philadelphia. 

Image credit: Rebecca Reeves.