Victorian Britain in the Mile High City

Today’s guest blogger is Jennifer R. Henneman, who holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Washington, and is Assistant Curator of Western American Art at the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum. Jennifer’s interdisciplinary transatlantic research, which has taken her from the wilds of the American West to the cosmopolitan streets of London, reflects her own upbringing on a cattle ranch in Montana and her interest in the dominant cultural and artistic spheres of the late Victorian era. In addition to creating exhibitions for the Denver Art Museum, Jennifer currently pursues a book project on the 1887 American Exhibition in London.

My daily walk to work at the Denver Art Museum includes a southward view down Broadway, one of Denver, Colorado’s primary north-south thoroughfares. Above the westward skyline rises “Jonas Bros / Furs” in red neon letters. A legacy of the city’s 1920s urban landscape, the sign towers over the art deco building out of which the Denver branch of the Jonas Brothers’ taxidermy and fur company operated for much of the 20th century.[1]

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Photo courtesy of the author.

The success of the Jonas Brothers’ firm was built on a 19th century tradition of big game hunting in the Colorado Rockies and its associated industry, taxidermy, which reached highest popularity during the latter part of that century. Lately, taxidermy is much on my mind as I consider the ramifications of North American hunting trophies exhibited within the Fine Arts Galleries of the American Exhibition in London of 1887, an event best known for hosting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West on its first tour abroad. I am interested in the strangeness of the Fine Art Galleries, in which the moulded forms of animal bodies held court adjacent to over a thousand works of American art. Hunted by British sportsmen in North America, these trophies reinforced active British participation in America’s westward expansion, and remind me of the imperial footprints left by such hunters in my current Colorado vicinity.

Continue reading “Victorian Britain in the Mile High City”

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self-indulgence

So far, I’ve tried to make all my posts have a point, even if it’s only (and it usually is) an itty-bitty one.  But, I’ve been thinking with all of our posts on the nature of technology, isn’t part of the point of blogging that it doesn’t have to have a point?  So here goes a very un-Victorian, completely self-indulgent post…

On my recent trip to the UK for BAVS-NAVSA, I dragged friends and family into one of my favourite self-indulgent activities:  looking at Victorian things. Queen Victoria Continue reading “self-indulgence”

Transatlanticism’s “radical claims”

I also attended the fascinating NAVSA session that Connie writes about: a conversation on “New Directions in Victoran Studies” between Amanda Claybaugh, Elaine Freedgood, Caroline Levine, John Plotz, and Andrew Stauffer.  I wanted to respond to Connie’s post here because, like Connie, I have also been considering Amanda Claybaugh’s claim that adhering to national boundaries in our study of literature is, at best, arbitrary, and, at worst, misleading.  Continue reading “Transatlanticism’s “radical claims””