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Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Sentimental Art of Victorian Hair Work Jewelry

Join us for a special evening dedicated to the art, beauty, and mystery surrounding the historical practice of using human hair to create remembrance items.

Victorians used real human hair to create decorative mementos in honor of their departed loved ones. Science History Institute is teaming up with Atlas Obscura Society Philadelphia 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.

In this evening event:

  • You’ll learn about the challenges of preserving and presenting this work from Lindsay Jancay from Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites;
  • Hear a presentation from artist Rebecca Reeves, who draws on Victorian-era mourning symbolism, spiritualism, and superstitions as inspiration;
  • And join us in a light reception as we toast the intriguing ways Victorians celebrated love and remembrance.

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

Rebecca Reeves has shown her work at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, Paradigm Gallery, the Fuller Craft Museum, the Gristle Art Gallery, and nationally. 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.

Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites brings 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.


Email Ryan Susurrus at  ryan@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final. No refunds or exchanges.