Living Rooms: The Period Room Initiative

Living Rooms: The Period Room Initiative

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

Additional support provided by The Chipstone Foundation.


Beer before Liquor: Alcohol and Its Pasts

James Gillray, British, 1756-1815
The Union Club, 1801
Hand-colored etching, The Dwight and Helen Minnich Collection, The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund, P.16,973

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. Beer Before Liquor features works of decorative art and prints drawn from Mia’s permanent collection. The installation coincides with two public programs on premodern alcohol and its uses: a March 3 lecture on the history of rum by Bertie Mandelblatt, and a March 4 tasting event at Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis.

Alcohol’s Empire

© Photograph by Taylor Friehl

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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Just Imported: Global Trade in 1700s New England

Providence Parlour, c. 1760-1770 Pine The William Hood Dunwoody Fund 23.3d

The Providence Parlor once occupied prime real estate on a wharf in 1700s Providence, Rhode Island. Its owners, brothers Joseph and William Russell, operated a prosperous merchant business that imported and exported goods by sea. Their store, The Sign of the Golden Eagle, offered a resplendent selection of imported fabrics, exotic spices, fine housewares, and hogsheads of rum, among other goods. Their market was the world, and the world, their market, made possible by trade winds, war profiteering, and the labor of enslaved people.

With their wealth, the Russell Brothers built the first three-story home in Providence, with views of the harbor. Originally installed at Mia in 1923, the parlor, along with its original inhabitants and harborside location, is brought back to life through a naturalistic soundscape, multi-sensory discovery cabinet of mercantile curios, and animated shadow puppets.

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Up All Night in the 1700s

Living Rooms; Up All Night in the 18th Century

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. The Grand Salon from the Hôtel de la Bouëxière will be prepped for one of these exclusive parties with a games table for card-playing (the night-loving aristocrat’s favorite diversion), candlesticks, and the required stimulants: coffee and chocolate. Of course, staying up late meant burning the midnight oil, so artificial lighting with candles and fire increased in importance during this time. New lighting in the Salon simulates the effects of flickering flames, revealing the warm glow of gilded paneling and metalwork in a “nighttime” setting.

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