Thank you, Emily, for your fascinating presentation on elite white femininity as enacted through the development of the First Ladies exhibition! Given the ongoing popularity of that exhibit, it's important to interrogate its gendered, racial framework.
Since you discuss the connection intersection between classicism and elite white femininity, you might be interested in Joanna Bosse's Becoming Beautiful: Ballroom Dance in the American Heartland (if you have heard of it, apologies for the repetition). It's about contemporary ballroom dance classes rather than museum exhibitions, but she similarly observes how whiteness is conflated and erased/rendered normative with and through classicism in ballroom dance practices, from the kinds of costumes worn to the adjectives used to describe the moves.
I was also curious about any potential connection with art museum practices at the time, more specifically if there's any relationship between the ivory plaster mannequins used for the initial iteration of the First Ladies exhibit and the custom of displaying plaster casts of famous classical sculptures in American art museums. Plaster casts were admittedly falling out of favor by the time the First Ladies exhibit went up, so maybe not, but I wanted to ask.
Anyway, your presentation has me thinking about a lot of things, so thank you for sharing such interesting work!
Thank you so much for taking the time to watch my presentation. I am not familiar with Bosse's work but I greatly appreciate you letting me know about it, it is on its way to now.
The relationship of the ivory plaster mannequins to other forms of museum display practice is a something I am working to unpack and continue researching. I have been so interested in the relationship to anthropological display, I haven't given much thought to how the mannequins might relate to classical plasters. The National Gallery was however, definitely still part of the United States National Museum in 1914, and I think that might an incredibly fruitful line of investigation. Thank you for your question! I look forward to working towards an answer as I continue to develop the project.
@emilymazzola that all sounds great! I'll have to keep an eye out for your work at future conferences as you continue to develop and research the project, as it sounds like it will be fascinating.
I am unfortunately only attending parts of this conference and mostly late in the evenings and am so glad that I stumbled across your talk. I was very thought provoking, I liked the clear analysis and the consistent conclusions. I just learned a lot. I am wondering, are there other museum spaces that you are also looking at in your work as examples next to the First Ladies Hall?