Why Aren’t They Smiling?

January 30, 2022

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Colonial Williamsburg’s new decorative arts museum contains a section for the Folk Art collection as well as the colonial-era art and artifacts. When I last visited, I was amused to see the exhibit panel (above) about facial expressions in 19th-century portraits. Not surprisingly, it says much the same thing that I wrote in the book, DEATH BY PETTICOAT, and what I posted on this blog years ago about facial expressions in 19th-century photographs and portraits. Compare the two here. 

Sadly, PETTICOAT was discontinued by Aramark, the company that now runs most of CW’s stores, restaurants, and hotels. I say “sadly” because the book had been well received and sold briskly in the museum’s shops; and it made a unique contribution to myth-busting in the history museum world. But PETTICOAT was hardly alone–most of CW’s educational books were discontinued by Aramark in the spirit of profit over education. You can still get a copy online.


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