Browse Exhibits (13 total)

EAT: The Social Life of Food

EAT: The Social Life of Food examines the dynamic relationship between people and food. The exhibit explores different ways that people interact with food from preparation, to eating, and beyond. Food provides social and cultural sustenance as well as fuel for the body. This exhibit approaches food as a part of human life across temporal, cultural, and geographic distance through a unique and wide-range of objects from the Fleming Museum collection. The significance of preparing and sharing food is represented in a vareity of cultural contexts, inviting viewers to explore the social life of food both historically and personally. The exhibit explores the different social aspects that food fills: the before eating, the everyday eating, the elevated status food can take on, and the ways food can transcend into spiritual or ritualistic aspects of life. EAT looks at food as something that connects humanity, and as a basic element of human life that is often overlooked.

Consuelo Northrop Bailey

Consuleo Northrop Bailey (1899-1976) was a prominent political figure in Vermont from the 1920s to the 1970s, serving as State's Attorney, State Senator, State Representative, Speaker of the House, Lt. Governor (the first woman to hold such an office in the U.S.), and Republican National Committeewoman.  This exhibit uses documents from the Consuelo Northrop Bailey Papers at Special Collections at the University of Vermont. 

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Context and Meanings in Baroque Art

The Baroque style originated in Italy around 1600. It was a style that, for the most part, met the needs of an elite clientele of connoisseurs and especially the new mandates for religious art espoused by the Council of Trent (1545-63).  More than even the Renaissance style that preceded it, the Baroque spread quickly across Europe and, through trade and other means, spread to the New World, India, China, and other far off lands. Religious and political motivations were as important for the development of Baroque style as artistic ones.

Artists and their work were sent all over Europe and facilitated the quick diffusion of this new “Italian” style.   Soon, patrons in Spain, the Netherlands, Flanders, France, England and the Holy Roman Empire demanded that local artists adopt it, though usually with some modifications to better conform to the differences in tastes, traditions, and the function and organization of religious and civic institutions in those areas. Then, since trade routes were so highly developed by this time, Baroque style paintings and sculptures were sent to every known area of the world and artists in those places took on some of the Baroque style as well.

The works of art from this period (c. 1580-1700) in the collections of the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University are from a wide variety of provenances, and with an array of functions, subjects, styles and media.  The foci of this exhibition are the four major areas of intersection of Baroque art and ideas that these objects document: Religion, Politics and Propaganda, Exploration, and the Social World of the Artist.

Frances Parkinson Keyes


Among the many treasures housed in Special Collections at the University of Vermont are thirteen boxes of correspondence, records, early writings and several manuscripts (some unpublished) of best-selling author Frances Parkinson Keyes (rhymes with “skies”).  Author of over 50 books, Keyes also wrote extensively for Good Housekeeping, Delineator, Better Homes and Gardens, and Ladies Home Journal. When her husband became the US Senator for New Hampshire she entered the world of politics, writing in support of women’s causes and traveling the globe as a foreign correspondent for Good Housekeeping.

This exhibit is the first of two that draw from the collection of her papers. It outlines the key events of her life, strives to show the breadth of her writing career and makes available documents by and about Keyes’ remarkable life.

Human Forms, Human Functions

Image of african maskThis exhibit showcases the diversity of human forms in art from around the world.  Although all reflect idealized representations of particular human qualities or characteristics, these idealized elements serve many functions, from beautifying adornment to remembrance of loved ones or signification of power. 

Chosen from the Fleming's large material culture collection, this collection of historical and ethnographic objects challenges the viewer to look beyond the compelling visual qualities that each offers to see their larger significance as part of human dramas and human lives.

Italy in Crisis: Plague in the 14th Century


..."What more can be said except that the cruelty of heaven (and perhaps in part of humankind as well) was such that between March and July, thanks to the force of the plague and the fear that led the healthy to abandon the sick, more than one hundred thousand people died within the walls of Florence. Before the deaths began, who would have imagined the city even held so many people? Oh, how many great palazzi, how many lovely houses, how many noble dwellings once full of families, of lords and ladies, were emptied down to the lowest servant? Oh, how many memorable pedigrees, ample estates and renowned fortunes were left without a worthy heir? How many valiant men, lovely ladies and handsome youths whom even Galen, Hippocrates and Aesculapius would have judged to be in perfect health, dined with their family, companions and friends in the morning and then in the evening with their ancestors in the other world?"
--Boccaccio, The Decameron
 Boccaccio described the dramatic toll of the most perilous plague epidemic in history, the 1348 wave of the Black Death. In less than a year, the plague devastated an Italy already in political and social turmoil.  The "Little Ice Age" had begun by the start of the century and had caused the soil quality to decline. As a result, the Great Famine began in 1315 and had claimed many lives and caused mass malnutrition that weakened the defenses of survivors during its two-year duration. Religious crises abounded as well. The Babylonian Captivity (when the papacy moved to Avignon, France) and the Great Schism (a period during the 14th century when three popes claimed the seat of Peter) brought confusion and a dearth of authority. By the third quarter of the century, wars were waged against the Papacy. In addition to all of this, in several cities, the masses of manual laborers rose up against the domination of the rich elite, wreaking total social upheaval. As these crises mounted, the people began searching for answers and they blamed the stars, poor religious leadership and widespread sin for their downfall.

Just as Virgil had cautioned Dante as he entered into Hell in the Divine Comedy, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," hope was, understandably, being abandoned. As the plague spread like wildfire, claiming the lives, in some cities, of more than half of the population, many suspicions and superstitions came to the surface as people struggled to find its causes.  Jews, foreigners, beggars, pilgrims, and people with skin conditions were targeted and killed because they were considered carriers of disease.
The devastation of the plague naturally had an enormous impact on the society of survivors left behind as the plague dissipated, at least temporarily, by 1350.  As rebuilding began, looming doubts, a growing concept of the individual, the lingering questioning of authority, religion and social structure a desire for the "good old days" of the great Roman Empire, along with increasing economic prosperity by the end of the century, served as catalysts for a new age, the golden age of the Renaissance, which, by the end of the century, was already beginning to bloom.


Curated by the students of Anthropology 250 (UVM’s Museum Anthropology seminar course) who researched objects from the Fleming Museum’s permanent collections, this exhibition examines metal as a material and how it has been decorated, shaped, and utilized across cultures. Recent work by archaeologists, scientists and historians who study the 8,000 year history of metalworking suggest that many cultures discovered the secrets of metallurgy independently at different points in time, although individual metalworking traditions have also been shaped by trade and other crosscultural contact. Examples in brass, silver, and copper show how metal in its purest forms and in various combinations has been used across time and in diverse cultures to create objects that were prized for their beauty and durability.

The examples in this exhibit present an eclectic sampling of how the unique characteristics of metal provided a medium for the expression of cultural meaning, aesthetic preferences and the needs of the people who crafted and used them.  Ranging from a brass arm cuff from Nigeria to the iron-spiked flax hatchel from eighteenth-century Vermont, the use of metal to produce objects with distinct culture values becomes an interesting lens through which to view the items in this gallery. As you explore the online version of this exhibit, consider how decorative traditions, the demands of metal as a creative medium, and cultural expectations contribute to each of these objects as they were once used, and as they can be viewed today.

Restless Lady: The Life and Times of Frances Parkinson Keyes


This exhibit explores the family life, career, and writings of Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885-1970), a political journalist and best-selling author.

The final essay, along with an interview with Prof. Melanie Gustafson, was selected for the New England Quarterly's inaugural article in their online learning department "Innovations in Teaching."


The Sex Show

Throughout human history, societies have proscribed acceptable manners and patterns of living which individuals are encouraged to follow. These include customs like greeting practices, dietary restrictions, or one's ceremonial entrance into adulthood to only name a few. Such practices highlight a universal truth of the human condition, the desire to fit in or belong to a group of like minded individuals that preach, practice, and breech the same social standards.

With the objects in this space, this student curated exhibit examines how visual and material culture illuminates the customs, beliefs, and desires surrounding sex, sexuality, and gender. It attempts to draw from as wide a variety of source cultures and historical periods as the Fleming's collection allows, showing a varied vignette into sex and gender practices around the world. 

Succinctly, we look to highlight how anthropological and art historical objects cultivate the desire to belong within certain social groups or how these items enable someone to express the opposite opinion, searching for peers within a much smaller subsection of the population that run against the predominate values system. Most of the objects fall into the former category, acting as didactic tools that reinforce standard constructions of sex and gender within a society. The latter show how individuals can and will rebel against such social standards, opting for something that the world at large may reject as improper, dangerous, or even disgusting. 

These marginalized members of society still exist today and the fight for acceptance and open mindedness may never end. Fortunately though, global forms of media and the Internet now allow for these individuals to connect and communicate with other people who identify their gender and sexual preferences in non-standard ways. In turn, these individuals' innate desire to fit in and identify with a group can be fulfilled with relative ease.

As you navigate this space, attempt to draw comparisons or conclusions about contemporary society from these historical examples. How does our society present and cultivate it's standards relating to gender and sex? Do you have any desires of your own that may not be considered socially acceptable by your society or those represented by the objects? What objects best highlight each side of the social dichotomy between teaching standard sexuality and emphasizing that which falls outside the advertised social norms?