Revisiting the Victorian Era at the SHMM

Morgan Robertson

This past Tuesday the Sam Houston Memorial Museum (SHMM) opened their first art exhibit of the school year, so, of course, we were there! The Museum exhibit featured the works of 19th Century artist John Rogers, whose collection of Victorian Sculptures, which the SHMM owns. The Museum did a great job of providing informational placards and other designs of the Victorian period, transporting us back to another time.

One of the most interesting pieces (as well as Jessica’s favorite) is entitled “School Days,” which depicted an immigrant with a rented organ grinder and a monkey playing a lively tune and dancing blissfully. While speaking with Jude Routh, the Museum’s Exhibitions Curator, she explained to us that around the time of the sculpture’s creation, poor immigrants would rent these instruments and monkeys in attempts to make money. My favorite sculpture entitled “Parting Promise” showed a couple gazing longingly into each other’s eyes with a ring as the focal point.

One of the more interesting facts regarding Rogers’ sculptures are the prices. For example, “Parting Promise” was priced at $12.00 in 1870. Although $12.00 was a lot more costly 150 years ago, it was still much less expensive than the typical sculpture, allowing middle-class families to own art.

 This exhibit had features from both the past and the present, and to our amazement Ms. Routh made all the column toppers by hand to match each sculpture, and even printed the Victorian style wallpaper.

The attention to detail gave a 3D point of view making each sculpture come to life.

Of course, we were also happy to mingle. We met Derrick Birdsall (Curator of Education), Ms. Routh, and the Woodwards, all of whom provided us insight into the artifacts and the world of Museums.

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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