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Victorian Parlor Collage

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Victorian Parlor Collage, c. 1880

Looking to perk up your home this winter by redecorating? This Smithsonian Snapshot offers design inspiration from mid-19th century family photos, tintypes and Victorian parlor collages on view in “Pictures in the Parlor” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum through June.

In the 1840s, photography was introduced in the U.S. allowing a wider range of Americans to afford portraits and decorative images. The parlor became the center of middle-class domestic life, a place where objects such as painted tintypes and hand-colored photographs reflected a family’s aesthetics, status and history.

Collages like the one shown here are typical of the “scrapbook houses” made by young, middle-class girls in the 19th century, helping to prepare them for domestic life through designing the interior spaces that would one day convey their families’ status and values.

“Pictures in the Parlor” examines decorative images from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century that were used in domestic interiors. To reflect on the history, practice and power of photography, visit the Smithsonian Archives’ Click! Photography Changes Everything project website.

This item is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is currently on display in “Pictures in the Parlor” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. To learn more about this item, visit the exhibition website.