J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Jane Nylander and the Bedrooms of Concord and Deerfield

On Thursday, 19 March, Jane C. Nylander will speak at the Concord Museum on the topic “Handsome Drapery and Sweet Repose: Looking Even Closer at New England Beds and Bedrooms, 1740-1860.”

Nylander is President Emerita of Historic New England, author of Our Own Snug Fireside, and a consulting curator of the museum’s “Behind Closed Doors: Asleep in New England” exhibit.

That exhibit posits, “What goes on behind the closed doors of the bedroom raises interesting questions of privacy, comfort, intimacy, and fashion that can be examined through objects as varied as bedsteads and coverlets, nightclothes and cradles, tin tubs and mahogany high chests.” Nylander’s talk will expand on many of its themes, “weaving together diary entries, snippets from household advice books, sewing instruction manuals, and antiquarian memoirs with a host of additional illustrations.”

This free event begins with a reception at 6:00 P.M. in French Hall, and the lecture will start at 7:00. To reserve space, use the museum’s website or call 978-369-9763, ext. 216. “Behind Closed Doors” closes at the Concord Museum on 23 March, so this is last week to see it.

If you’re restless for more information on bedrooms of the past, Historic Deerfield is hosting a one-day seminar on the topic on 11 April, titled “Pillow Talk: Discovering Early New England Bed Chambers.” And the keynote speaker is none other than Jane Nylander.

Among the other speakers is Prof. A. Roger Ekirch from Virginia Tech, author of At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past. He has concluded that before widespread artificial illumination, “people enjoyed two sleep sessions in one night: a first sleep and a second sleep, with as long as two hours of wakefulness in between.” The B.B.C. reported:
Ekirch found that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century. This started among the urban upper classes in northern Europe and over the course of the next 200 years filtered down to the rest of Western society. By the 1920s the idea of a first and second sleep had receded entirely from our social consciousness.
Knowledge like that can keep you up nights.

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