Bracelets, buckles, buttons, and beads. Clasps, combs, and chains. Items of personal adornment fill museum collections and are regularly uncovered in historical period archaeological excavations. But until the publication of this comprehensive volume, there has been no basic guide to help curators, registrars, historians, archaeologists, or collectors identify this class of objects from colonial and early republican America. Carolyn L. White helps the reader understand and interpret these artifacts, discussing their source, manufacture, materials, function, and value in early American life. She uses them as a window on personal identity, showing how gender, age, ethnicity, and class were often displayed through the objects worn. White draws not only on the items themselves, but uses their portrayal in art, contemporary writings, advertisements, and business records to assess their meaning to their owners. A reference volume for the shelf of anyone interested in early American material culture. Over 100 illustrations and tables.
White blazes a trail for historical archaeologists and material culture researchers who are interested not just in identifying and dating the objects they study but also in their social and cultural import. Excavated artifacts of personal adornment are often minute both in size and in proportion to finds such as ceramics and glass, and their significance is easily overlooked. More than a reference work, White's guide provides the theoretical grounding and a methodological framework for interpreting items of personal adornment in light of gender roles and the physical construction of the body through dress. It is a sophisticated, exhaustive, and much-need work.
White provides an unparalleled resource for archaeologists, historians, museum professionals, and the general public interested in personal adornment. Her comprehensive research and discussion of the history, manufacture, distribution, and, most importantly, the meaning of artifacts of personal adornment for the people inhabiting colonial New England is breathtakingly executed; allowing us to more broadly and creatively conceptualize this important class of artifacts.
This is a wonderful guide to a class of artifacts that connects to individual idiosyncrasies. White opens up real possibilities for getting closer to people in the past and she gives us a method for doing it. This book not only identifies artifacts of personal adornment, it interprets them in cultural context. It is a gift to historical archaeologists and to all scholars who think about the construction of identity.