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"Downton Abbey Style" at Rutgers Art Library

March 1, 2016
exhibit image

Graphic by Jill Marshall-Work

The popularity of PBS’s Downton Abbey, now in its sixth and final season, cannot be overstated. Many organizations have capitalized on “Downton Abbey fever,” offering viewing parties, lectures, classes, workshops, tea parties, fashion shows, and more.

Most viewers are captured by the romance of a bygone era and captivated by the sumptuous costumes of the show. The exhibit at the Art Library, Rutgers University–New Brunswick runs through Wednesday, March 30, ties together fine art, literature, history, design, fashion, and decorative arts of the period covered by the show, 1912–1925. Highlights of the exhibit include costumes and accessories on loan from the Mason Gross School of the Arts theater department and vintage and repro props/hats from Jill’s Prop Shop, a local theatrical service. One part of the display includes a historical timeline, juxtaposed with a timeline of key Downton Abbey events, accompanied by images of art and literature of the period. The display cases include some surprising items that made their first appearance in the early 1900s.

The exhibit is curated by Art Library intern Jill Work, proprietor of Jill’s Prop Shop and currently completing her MLIS at University of Alabama. Work also created a “libguide,” which has direct links to the catalog for books related to styles of the period, as well as links to web resources compiled by librarian Kareemah Hamden. The libguide, found at http://libguides.rutgers.edu/downtonabbeystyle also features historical timeline, a brief photo gallery on the exhibit, and a slideshow of period industrial and social/cultural achievements.

Work explains her interest in mounting the exhibit: “I want to put Downton Abbey into a historical context. I find it fascinating that it would be appropriate to the period for Lady Mary to be munching on Oreos, her son George to by playing with Lincoln Logs, and Dr. Clarkson to be prescribing a radioactive water such as Radithor—as a health drink! The Crawley family could be reading new books by Zane Grey and Sigmund Freud, reciting poetry by Carl Sandberg, and viewing newly-created art by the likes of Kandinsky, Picasso, Monet, and Norman Rockwell.”

Art Librarian Megan Lotts states, “I’m delighted to have this exhibit at the Art Library because viewers of this exhibit will have the opportunity to learn more about the time period in which Downtown Abbey takes place. Curator Jill Work has done an outstanding job bringing together memorabilia and ephemera to highlight the history, culture, and important moments that were occurring in the early 1900s. This exhibit will be of interest to those who love the PBS series, or have an interest in history.”

The exhibit runs through March 30. The Art Library is located at 71 Hamilton St., New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901, on Rutgers’ College Avenue campus, adjacent to the Zimmerli Art Museum. There is metered parking on the street, and campus buses and city buses make stops by the museum. Find out more about The Art Library and the “Downton Abbey Style” exhibit at http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/art