Museum Exhibitions

Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion

September 3, 2015

September 18 - December 18

Take a peek at what lies beneath, in Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion, a new textile exhibition at the University of New Hampshire Museum.

Past exhibitions have focused on lovely gowns and surface details, but Whalebone to Steel: The Shape of Fashion, the latest effort by guest curator Astrida Schaeffer, lifts skirts and unbuttons bodices to reveal the true ‘Victoria’s secrets’ — the corsets, hoops, bustles and more, that shaped and supported the changing silhouettes of women’s clothes from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

Some of the foundation garments displayed are designed to reshape the body, while some added to the body to change the profile. Early corsets and their precursors, called “stays,” were stiffened with reeds, cords, or whalebone (actually baleen) as a means of supporting the torso and bust. As technology advanced in the mid-19th century steel boning became the norm and the hourglass figure emerged as a result of steel’s shaping qualities.

According to Schaeffer:

Contrary to urban legend, that didn’t mean fainting ladies and rib removal; the exhibition makes the case that much of what we think we know about what it was like to live in a corset is a myth. In fact women lived quite active lives while corseted and could even be fairly athletic.

Where corsetry physically altered the body, hoops and bustles affected women’s shapes by building out artificially from it with cages of steel and other materials. The exhibition showcases a range of these items, as well as contemporary attitudes towards women's’ fashionably ballooning forms.

The core of the items on view comes from the Irma Bowen Textile Collection at UNH, which holds some 700 textile pieces donated to the university by Bowen. These pieces were originally gathered as teaching tools for the home economics dressmaking classes she taught at UNH from the 1920s to the 1940s.

In addition, generous loans from collections at the Brick Store Museum, John Paul Jones House, Museums of Old York, Strawbery Banke Museum, and the Wentworth Lear Historic Houses help fill out the story of how women’s clothes were shaped by their underthings.

The exhibition is sponsored by the University Museum and funded in part by the E.Ruth Buxton Stephenson Memorial Fund.

The University Museum, located in the Dimond Library, is open Monday through Friday, 12 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesday noon to 8 p.m. Closed November 11, & 26 to 28.

Visit our Museum page for directions, parking information, photos, and more information on the exhibition and related programs.

Media contact: Dale Valena
University Museum, UNH

Upcoming Museum Exhibit

January 20, 2015

Conflict Zone: Photojournalism from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

January 26 - March 6, 2015 University Museum, Dimond Library, Level 1

The University Museum, with funding from the UNH English Department, will host an exhibit and related programs entitled Conflict Zone: Photojournalism from the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a collection of images from the front lines and the post-war home front, captured by combat photographers and journalists, both military and civilian.

Conflict Zone was established in 2010 to honor Joao Silva, a New York Times photojournalist who lost both legs to a landmine in Afghanistan. Chris Hondros, Joao’s colleague and a Conflict Zone featured photographer, was killed in Libya in 2011. Conflict Zone is now dedicated to him.

A formal opening is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 5th at 5:00 PM, and will include an artist’s walkthrough by Nathan Webster, a Lecturer of English at UNH whose photography is part of the exhibition. Webster reported from Iraq as a freelance photojournalist from 2007-09. In addition to his Conflict Zone work, other examples of his photography will be displayed.

The exhibit will also include a reading and discussion with Elliot Ackerman, author of the upcoming novel Green on Blue. Ackerman has written for The New Yorker and Daily Beast and is a Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. Ackerman’s reading will take place Thursday, Feb. 26th at 5:00 PM at the UNH Memorial Union Building, Theater II.

Learn more at and

For more exhibit information, contact Dale Valena, 603-862-1081, or Nathan Webster, 603-862-1313,

Astrida Schaeffer Book Receives Glowing Review

November 25, 2014

Historical New Hampshire, a publication of the New Hampshire Historical Society, has published a most complimentary review of Astrida Schaeffer's book, Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail. The book, which includes over 70 color photographs, and a collection of Schaeffer's own "superb instructional diagrams and schematic drawings", is particularly unique because of the level of detailed instruction focusing on recreating Victorian clothing embellishments.

Interested readers may find Embellishments in the UNH Library. You may also see examples of textiles from the UNH Irma Bowen Textile Collection, and specific pieces from Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail, which have been displayed in a past exhibit at the University Museum.

Chinese Bamboo Script Exhibition

September 24, 2014

Chinese Bamboo Scripts from Hunan: A Recording of Early Chinese Civilization

September 24th-26th in Dimond Library, near Circulation Desk on level 3
Sponsored by the Confucius Institute at UNH

The exhibit is free and open to the public.

For over 2,000 years, bamboo and wood scripts played an important role in Chinese history. The culture of bamboo script writing has had a far-reaching impact on Chinese civilization. The exhibition will display 60 pieces of bamboo and wood script replicas (excavated from Hunan Province of China) dating back to Qin, Han Dynasty, and the State of Wu during the Three Kingdoms Period.

The exhibition is organized in partnership with the Confucius Institute at Bryant University in Rhode Island, Hunan Antique Archaeology Institute, and Changsha Museum of Bamboo Scripts in Hunan, China.

To learn more about the exhibit, please visit the Chinese Bamboo Script Exhibition page, or find out more about the Confucius Institute at UNH.

Cooperative Extension Celebrates 100 Years

September 17, 2014

September 18 - December 12, 2014
A new University Museum exhibit celebrates the 100th year of UNH Cooperative Extension.

The exhibit, "Bringing the University to You: A Century of Service to the Granite State," will be on display at the University Museum in Dimond Library.

Thursday, September 18, 4:00-6:00pm with refreshments - all are welcome.

Exhibit Hours:
Monday - Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm
Tuesday, 10:00am-8:00pm

Visit the University Museum page to learn more about current and past exhibits.

New museum exhibit features faculty drawings

April 10, 2014

The University Museum in Dimond Library presents its latest exhibition, The Art of Drawing: Works by UNH Studio Art Faculty. It runs from April 4 through June 14, 2014.

The art of drawing has always been considered a fundamental priority of the Studio Art Program at UNH. Guest curator, Craig Hood, says that he hopes this exhibition will give the university community and its visitors an opportunity to have a glimpse of a very basic component of what an art education means to faculty in the Department of Art and Art History.

For more information, visit the University Museum. The Museum is located on Level 1 in Dimond Library in Special Collections & Archives.

Celebrate Mardi Gras early with the new University Museum exhibition

January 17, 2014

Mardi Gras isn't until March 4th this year, but the University Museum welcomes you to celebrate early with its latest exhibition, The Beat on the Street: Second Lines, Mardi Gras Indians, and the Photography of Gary Samson.

This exhibition of photographs and folk art focuses on the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans. This working class, African American tradition is distinctively part of New Orleans’s parade culture, and more broadly related to black Carnival celebrations throughout the world.

The exhibit runs from February 10 through March 28, 2014 with its formal opening on Wednesday, February 12, 2014.

The opening includes the showing of the film, Bury the Hatchet, which traces the Mardi Gras Indian tradition through the eyes of three “big chiefs” or leaders of these Mardi Gras Indian gangs. The event will feature special guest Big Chief Alfred Doucette of the Flaming Arrows, who also appears in the documentary. He will answer questions about the film and this centuries old tradition in a discussion moderated by Professor Burt Feintuch of the UNH Center for the Humanities.

The film and discussion will take place from 3-5:00PM at the Memorial Union Building, Theater I. An opening reception will follow the program at the University Museum, Dimond Library, Room 101, 5:30-7:00PM.

The exhibit will feature Mardi Gras Indian suits and art work, as well as the photography of Gary Samson, chair of the Photography Department of the New Hampshire Institute of Art. The exhibit, film, and reception are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at the reception.

The exhibition is underwritten, in part, by a grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council.

Relaxing in a Madhouse, paintings by John Angelopoulos, poems by Charles Simic in Special Collections

October 3, 2013

“Relaxing in a Madhouse, Paintings by John Angelopoulos, Poems by Charles Simic” is now open in Milne Special Collection’s Dunleavy Reading Room. The display features 12 of Angelopoulos’ paintings inspired by the Pulitzer Prize winning poetry of Professor Emeritus and former U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Simic.

Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Simic is known for his surreal, metaphysical poems. His first collection “What the Grass Says” was published 1967. Since then, he has published more than 60 books.

Angelopoulos’ paintings for the exhibit were created based on his interpretation of selections from “The World Doesn’t End,” the collection that won Simic the Pulitzer Prize in 1990.

Special Collections is located on Level 1 in Dimond Library. The exhibit will be on display until October 26 and can be viewed Monday through Friday, 10 AM-4 PM and Saturday 12 PM-4 PM.

Second UNH staff art exhibition opens September 13

September 5, 2013

The University Museum in Dimond Library will host its second UNH staff art exhibition, "In the Company of Artists: An Exhibition of Art and Fine Crafts by UNH Staff."

The juried exhibit includes works by 48 faculty and staff in various media including photography, sculpture, painting, collage, and textiles.

An opening reception will take place Friday, September 13, from 4:00 - 6:00PM. All are invited to attend.

The exhibition will be on display from September 13 to December 13, 2013.

See the Museum hours. For more information call 862-1081 or visit