Re-posted from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture’s Material Matters blog:
As a student at Winterthur, I have access to some truly amazing resources. First, there’s the library, with its mind-blowing collections which always manage to have just what you need (and don’t get me started on the librarians, whose knowledge of the collection means that casual chit chat often turns into research gold.) Then, of course, there is the house. 175 rooms chock full of amazing objects which I get to touch if I want to. Handling privileges is one of the core tenets of WPAMC, and every time I pick up a silver sugar bowl to see how the feet were soldered on, or pop the seat out of a 1730’s chair, to examine how the seat frame is constructed, I feel lucky. I admit, however, that I spend less time in the collections at Winterthur than I do exploring craftsmanship on another platform – Instagram.
When I joined Instagram, peer pressured by my undergrad classmates back in 2013, I never dreamt that I would use it to follow a contemporary Australian Windsor chair maker, a British historical knitter, and a museum curator who takes his followers on epic journeys to understand garments. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – Instagram lets me follow crafts people in every media, and in every part of the world. It also helps me stay connected to museums, and see the behind-the-scenes work of curators and conservators.
All of this helps me contextualize the objects in Winterthur’s collection by comparing them to contemporary makers, whose process is often on display on their Instagram accounts. Studying the work of modern artisans – especially those whose work is directly informed by the material culture of the past – is a perpetual reminder of the value of my education at Winterthur. Below is a select list of Instagram accounts that I propose as “supplemental study” for the discerning material culturalist in the age of social media.
1. Rundell and Rundell This Australia-based account is all about Windsor chairs. Not only does it give you a look into Glen Rundell’s chair making workshop, you also get to follow Rundell’s adventures as he studies chairs in museum collections, and confabs with other craftspeople at events like the Lost Trades Fair.
2. Sally Pointer I know Sally Pointer’s name as the preeminent knitter of historical reproduction stockings, but her Instagram also lets you tag along as she explores the natural world for its resources: be they unsung plant fibers, natural dyes, or unusual things to eat for dinner.
3. Peter Follansbee Well-known Seventeenth-century reproduction woodworker, Peter Follansbee, can be found on Instagram these days. His account includes many short videos of him at work turning, carving, and joining green wood. (He also recently acquired a pair of kittens who make appearances from time to time.)
4. The Burroughs Garret Justin Squizzero’s weaving business is run out of his beautiful 1810’s farmhouse in rural Vermont. His Instagram tells the story of his work with a rich emphasis on tradition and meaning. Scroll down to watch him develop a fly shuttle for the eighteenth-century barn loom he weaves on.
5. Brooklyn Lace Guild The Brooklyn Lace Guild is hip, contemporary, and all about bobbin lace. Check out their account for a refreshing combination of modern making and museum objects. This guild really succeeds in making this old craft cool.
6. Timothy Lang Fashion Curator The Museum of London’s fashion curator has a unique style of videography, and a playful sense of humor, which he uses to highlight some of the more fascinating aspects of garments as he prepares them for display. This is one of my all-time favorite museum accounts.
7. Marsh’s Library one of many rare books libraries I follow, Marsh’s Library posts fun and playful images from exquisite books. Get your early modern marginalia fix here.
8. Material Culture Winterthur I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention WPAMC’s own Instagram. Follow to get a look at what the fellows are working on!