Exhibitions

Woven Strands: The Art of Human Hair Work

Thomson Gallery | January 19, 2018 – September 16, 2018

Please note: Thomson Gallery and the Medicinal Garden's hours vary on weekends; call 215-560-8564 to confirm Saturday hours to avoid disappointment.

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A favored folk art of the 18th and 19th century, hair art was a sentimental expression of grief and love, usually created by women whose identities have become anonymous over time. Human hair (from both living and deceased persons) was used to form flower bouquets, wreaths, braided jewelry chains, weeping willows, and painted scenes of mourning. Considered to be a form of portraiture, these were cherished tokens to preserve the memory of a deceased loved one, chart a vibrant family tree of the living, or to be traded as friendship keepsakes. It is rare to view such pieces publicly as they were created in domestic settings, for home display.

From six private collections, the Mütter Museum along with John Whitenight and Evan Michelson have assembled an exquisite group of hair art and jewelry as well as accompanying materials that discuss the social expectations of Victorian-era mourning rituals that ruled 19th century society with strict standards.

YES, you CAN take photos of the Woven Strands exhibition! Tag them on social media #WovenStrands. Photos are NOT permitted in the main Museum galleries. 

Selected Press Coverage for Woven Strands

March 6: The Magazine Antiques, Trim and Ends

February 13: Artsy, The Curious Victorian Tradition of Making Art from Human Hair

January 18: Philadelphia Magazine, New at the Mütter: Art Made from Human Hair

January 12: Atlas Obscura, The Intricate Craft of Using Human Hair for Jewelry, Art, and Decoration

January 11: Mental Floss, The Victorian Custom of Making Crafts from Human Hair

December 18: Huffington Post, Mütter Museum to Put Woven Hair Art on Display


Created in conjunction with Morbid Anatomy and co-curated by collectors John Whitenight and Evan Michelson, along with Museum Special Project Manager Emily Snedden Yates.

The Mütter Museum extends a special thanks to Jennifer Berman, Eden Daniels, Sam Gassman, Pamela Moschini, Evan Michelson, John Whitenight, and Frederick LaValley for loaning material to the exhibition. 

The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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