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Curator's Choice: Hair Wreath

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© Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System

Every culture has rituals around death and mourning. During the Victorian Era it was something called Hair Wreaths. Women would collect the hair of loved ones in a little jar and turn them into mementos.

However, as women's worlds expanded it became a more specialized skill. Where the hair came from became less important, but somehow the wreaths still were considered objects that represented deceased family memories.

In our latest installment of Radio Chipstone, contributor Gianofer Fields continues her Curator’s Corner series with Virginia Terry Boyd - Professor Emerita in School of Human Ecology at UW Madison.

"If you sort of think about the idea of a mother who keeps a lock of her child's hair when they're born, that it is a part of them that she wants to keep as the beginning of life....that has a deep connection with her. And it also started in the tradition of men going to war and their beloved would give a lock of hair to take as a physical presence that would go with this person who was leaving. That then also led to when a person died, you kept a piece of hair that was a physical presence that became a part of you," says Boyd.

Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "It's a Material World" - a project funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.

Original air date: 11/08/14

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.