UD student Alice Dickinson (far left) describes the exhibition to museum visitors.

Artful technology

Student's exhibit in New Orleans showcases 19th century design

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3:13 p.m., Jan. 20, 2012--A University of Delaware graduate student has produced an exhibition of 19th century household items that opened this month at the New Orleans Museum of Art and will remain on view through June 24.

Alice Dickinson, who is the Lois F. McNeil Fellow and a master's degree student in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, created "Mass Produced: Technology in 19th Century English Design." The exhibition opened Jan. 13 and is featured in the latest issue of the museum's magazine, Arts Quarterly.

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The exhibition showcases manufacturing techniques that came into use in the 19th century and allowed such useful and decorative items as ceramics and glassware to be mass-produced and therefore more affordable. Examples include mold-pressed glass, which was used to fashion vases and other objects; transfer-printed ceramics, which could take the place of hand-painted dinnerware; and electroplating, which enabled tableware to be coated with a thin layer of silver.

"New processes, as well as modifications and rediscoveries of old techniques, allowed an upsurge of options and styles, attainable for the average person," according to the museum's description of the mass production highlighted in the exhibition. 

The objects on display are from the museum's collection of British decorative arts and were selected to explore the relationships between design, technology and mass production.

Dickinson earned her master's degree in art history at Tulane University and worked at the New Orleans Museum of Art as associate collections manager while in graduate school. She will earn her master's degree from UD's Winterthur Program this year.

The Winterthur Program in American Material Culture was founded 60 years ago as the first graduate program dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of material culture and the decorative arts in the United States. The program, in which students and faculty make use of the collections at Winterthur Museum, continues to lead museum and academic scholarship.

Photos courtesy of New Orleans Museum of Art

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