Past Times Newsletter - November 2001

Past Times
The monthly newsletter from Ruby Lane Antiques, Collectibles,
Fine Art, and Arts & Crafts
Welcome to Past Times!

o Happy Thanksgiving from Ruby Lane!
o Collecting Memorial Jewelry by Barbara Robbins of Robbins'
o The Peabody Essex Museum: Redefining the American Museum
for 200 Years by Adam Halterman of The Journal of Antiques
& Collectibles


We at Ruby Lane, would like to wish everyone a happy

My first love, both as a dealer and a collector, is memorial
jewelry. Many people have never heard of this category of
jewelry and are thoroughly amazed at the concept. I saw my
first piece of hair jewelry at a Flea Market in Nashville in the
mid 80's. A lovely English dealer showed me a tiny brooch and I
stupidly asked, "What kind of stone is that?" She so patiently
replied that it was hair (yes, hair!), and my passion for this
fascinating subject was born.

My knowledge and collection has grown, but I have never
forgotten that particular dealer and her patience. This brings
me to my first important tip for the potential collector in this
unique category: Buy from reputable dealers. They are usually
patient and love having someone who is truly interested in their
special things. They will often share their knowledge, and the
novice collector will learn from them, and from looking at their

Next, you need a good magnifying instrument with which to see
these items closely. I bought for a while using a magnifying
glass, but after a year or so, decided I was ready for a good
jeweler's loupe. Now I never sell or buy without one. If a
piece is good, it will look even better under magnification. If
there is damage, it too, will show up clearly.

Next, read everything you can about the subject. There are
many good guides out there. In my opinion the best one for the
money is Anne Louise Luthi's "Sentimental Jewelry". This is
good for the beginner because it is inexpensive (I give them to
customers who buy a piece from me), and it is also easy to read.
Other good hardbacks are: Vivienne Becker's "Antique and
Twentieth Century Jewellery", Martha Ganudy Fales's "Jewelry in
America", Jeanne Bell's "Hairwork Jewelry", and Shirley Bury's
"Jewellery". Also, the advent of internet shopping is a
wonderful learning tool. You can sit at home and peruse the
shops of some of the best dealers in the world, study their
pictures, and see what is available, where it is available, and
how much it costs. Then, as a general rule, try to buy pieces
that are in good condition, even if they are a little more
expensive. Allow for acceptable wear from age, but not
unacceptable damage. I personally will not buy a mourning
miniature with cracked ivory, but I have bought pieces with
replaced shanks, replaced crystals, and replaced accent stones.

Last, but certainly not least, buy what you love. If it speaks
to you and you can't forget it, buy it. Charge it, put it on
layaway, or, as Luthi says, "eat gruel for a week." You may
only have that one opportunity; the next time you see the piece,
it may be in a museum!

Visit Barbara's shop, Robbins' Roost at Robbins' Roost


Museums have been vital American institutions since the birth of
this country. The past 200 years have brought exponential growth
to the diversity and sheer number of museums, transforming them
from isolated outposts of cultural preservation to common
weekend destinations encompassing everything from art and
history, to wildlife and popular culture. In today's society,
where technological interface effortlessly crosses geographical
and cultural boundaries, what is the museum's role? In a time
when philosophers are grappling with New Museology, attempting
to define the museum as an agent for social improvement, where
does luxury give way to obligation? What does society demand of
its museums, and museums of society? In the midst of constant
social flux and coexisting multicultural definitions of world,
country, and community, how can an institution, truly, be a
museum for our times?

These questions don't simply concern museum mission statements,
they, in the case of historical/cultural museums such as the
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, concern, in a larger sense,
how a given culture defines its place, both geographically and
historically. The Peabody Essex Museum has experienced firsthand
the challenges that the last 200 years have brought and,
throughout its history, has always succeeded in being a museum
for its times, whatever time that may be.

The oldest ongoing museum in the United States, it was founded
in 1799 by Salem merchants who had made contact with the East,
effectively revolutionizing New England trade and opening the
doors for Asian exports which would figure so prominently in
19th century American markets and pave the way for the global
economy as we know it. In an amazing moment of foresight these
men hatched a vision which would foreshadow modern approaches to
multicultural education. In order for burgeoning globalism to
flourish, they reasoned, it was crucial that Americans learned
about and appreciated cultures other than their own. It seems
simple enough today, but 200 years ago the very idea turned the
contemporary approach to foreign culture on its head. This came
in a time when, in efforts to maintain a Eurocentric cultural
(and physiological) hierarchy, foreign specimens (both human and
material) were touted as freakish curiosities. To establish a
museum which treated Asian and Pacific cultures with respect and
appreciation was truly revolutionary.

Over the past 200 years the Museum has risen to both meet the
challenges posed by increasing globalization and
multi-dimensional world culture and to challenge the world with
its world vision of cultural respect and interplay. The Peabody
Essex Museum houses some of the world's largest and most
important collections of Asian exports, Asian art, African and
Pacific cultural artifacts, Maritime art, Native American art,
and American decorative arts, folk art and costume.

Together these collections, which total over 2 million objects,
offer a panoramic view of the evolution of world cultures and
continues their 200 year old belief that healthier commerce,
politics, and world-views can be achieved through multicultural
education and appreciation.

For complete article and color pictures, please visit The
Journal of Antiques & Collectibles at The Journal of Antiques
and Collectibles


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