Living Rooms Project; project to reinterpret the period rooms at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture; Jennifer Komar Olivarez, curator-in-charge

The Period Room Initiative: Living Rooms

Living Rooms:
The Period Room Initiative

In this multi-year initiative, Mia is reinvigorating its period rooms for today’s visitors, placing the past in dialogue with the present, while simultaneously broadening the conversation to include other histories—of marginalized people, of the senses, and even of time itself

Generous support provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and donors at the 2014 Mia Gala.

Additional support provided by The Chipstone Foundation.


Just Imported: Global Trade in 1700s New England

The Providence Parlor once occupied prime real estate on a wharf in 1700s Providence, Rhode Island.

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Up All Night in the 1700s

In the 1700s, European cities witnessed a gradual but profound shift in daily life: people stayed up later and partied harder into the night. Many of their nocturnal soirees were private affairs, hosted in elite homes by invitation only.

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Turkish Rugs on Tudor Walls: 16th-Century Trade between England and the Islamic World

Five hundred years ago, the Islamic world ruled much of North Africa, Persia, and Eastern Europe.

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Life at the Edge of Empire: North America

For North Americans living in the late 1700s and early 1800s—whether free or enslaved, Native American or of African or European descent—life was impacted by a common set of historical forces, albeit in very different ways.

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Beer before Liquor: Alcohol and Its Pasts

Today, alcohol has a presence on every continent of the world, but its regional pasts are varied. This installation gestures to alcohol’s trajectory across the globe and through time, as it earned its reputation as both poison and cure.

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Alcohol’s Empire

A collaboration of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Wangensteen Historical Library at the University of Minnesota, and Tattersall Distilling that explores the history of drinking in the 18th-century Atlantic world.

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The Many Voices of Colonial America

The Charleston Dining and Drawing Rooms came from the 1772 home of Col. John Stuart, who served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Britain’s southern colonies and was also an owner of enslaved Africans.

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Science and Sociability in 1700s England

In 1700s England, the home was a place where genteel men and women studied and conversed about natural history; only later did science move exclusively to the laboratory, where it became a predominantly male profession.

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Haunted Mia: Explore the Museum’s Spooky Tales

Ghost stories about Mia’s building, artworks, and period rooms abound, especially among Mia’s security guards who work the graveyard shift. Mia staff member Lori Erickson collected several of the best and created the Haunted Mia audio tour.

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Haunted Audio Tour

Made in China: The MacFarlane Room Wallpaper / Gallery 328

The MacFarlane Memorial Room is usually furnished with Federal style American furniture given by the MacFarlane family, to represent a wealthy New England parlor.

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2016-2017 The American Period Rooms: Inside/Out

When visiting the museum’s American period rooms, Minneapolis-based photographer Anthony Marchetti became interested in the artifice of these spaces, and especially the stories of how each room was disassembled, moved then reassembled in the museum.

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2015-2017 The Jane Austen Reading Room

Jane Austen, born in the south of England in 1775, remains one of the world’s most beloved authors. Her six novels, including Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), are staples of the screen and stage, their characters as alive today as they were in her imagination.

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2015-2016 Cultivated Senses: The Studio of Gratifying Discourse / Gallery 216

The sounds of birds, crickets, and a rare 17th century zither fill the Studio. Items for keeping crickets and songbirds—cages, feeding dishes, and ticklers—are presented with mounted illustrations of favorite birds.

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2016 – Emmet Ramstad: Mend with Me

Mend with me was a series of participatory sock darning lessons led by artist Emmett Ramstad in four distinct period rooms during the month of February in conjunction with his MAEP exhibition.

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2015 – Candlelight tour of the Period Rooms

Mia offered a special “candlelight” tour of the period rooms in conjunction with the Living Rooms project. Curators took a limited number of people through the rooms after the museum had closed and the modern lighting had been turned off.

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2015 – Mushi Boshi in the Japanese Formal Audience Hall (Shoin) / Gallery 222

At an airing, items are removed from their usual storage location and exposed to fresh air in a relatively relaxed manner. Airings in Japan can be dated back to the 8th and 9th centuries when records speak of them in connection with imperial and religious collections.

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2015 – Chintz in the Queen Anne Room

On view in the Queen Anne Room is an 18th century textile that was made in India for the English market by traditional artisans skilled in making colorful cotton cloth, or “chintz.” Soon after European export companies were established in India in the 1600s, chintzes found their way into elite homes as curtains, bed coverings, and eventually clothing, transforming European taste and material culture. Come see this intricately dyed cloth in its 18th century English “home away from home.”

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2015 – Globalization Juxtaposi- tion: Tissot/Chinese Textile Juxtaposition

In the pastel at left, the Comtesse d’Yanville has gathered her children in an elite French home dressed top to bottom in Chinese textiles.

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2014 – Winterlights at the Purcell-Cutts House

The Prairie School-style Purcell-Cutts House was decorated for the holidays to reflect the upper-middle-class, “progressive” lifestyle of the Purcells around 1915.

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2012/2013 – Mark Dion’s “Curator’s Office”

Mark Dion’s “Curator’s Office,” created for More Real, was reinstalled as a permanent collection object. Read more to explore the installation and other materials related to the installation of this unique “period” room.

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2012/2013 – Supper with Shakespeare in Tudor Room

Famed food historian, Ivan Day, handcrafted a full banquet in the Tudor room, the museum’s first period room, in order to demonstrate the evolution of English banqueting.

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2010/2011 – After the Revolution: Ai Wei Wei Marble Chair in Wu Family Reception Hall

In the setting of the Mia’s historic Wu Family Reception Hall, Wei Wei’s marble chair took its place alongside antique chairs. The marble chair is a poignant symbol of the continuities and disruptions of cultural tradition that permeate China today.

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2010/2011 – Colonial Legacy in the French Salon: Yinka Shonibare MBE in the Grand Salon

At first glance this fancy gown seems right at home in a dazzling Parisian salon. A closer look will reveal that the dress is made not of French silk but of printed cotton, produced in Europe for the West African market.

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2010 - Clue Game in the Period Rooms

Mia CLUE, the intriguing game of whodunit set in the period rooms, was created for Mia’s Third Thursday series.

Download the instructions and pieces to create a game pack, assemble up to five players (including yourself), and head to the third floor to play!

Download the instructions and pieces to recreate the game!

Living Rooms Project; project to reinterpret the period rooms at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles and Sculpture; Jennifer Komar Olivarez, curator-in-charge