Culinary exhibitions add life to museums' period rooms

tags: museums, NYT, exhibitions, food history



The period rooms in art museums have the mustiest, dustiest of reputations. They are often seen as the cultural equivalent of grandma’s overstuffed couch that smelled like a fleet of cats....

The traditional period-room model has been the dollhouse, but without Colonial Dame Barbie. Furniture and objects were arranged just so to set the scene for a particular era and then cordoned off for years. Museumgoers did not stumble over one another to take a peek.

But some museums have discovered at least one secret ingredient to make their potentially snooze-inducing rooms more palatable to the public: a chef of sorts. Meet Ivan Day, a British food historian who is helping museums satisfy the public’s growing interest in food in all of its cultural manifestations. And why food? That’s because the hardware of cooking and dining usually make up a big part of museums’ decorative arts collections....



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