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New Tour at the Frick Art & Historical Center: Mourning Customs in the Victorian Era
Daniel Burnham-designed central family stone for the Frick family’s plot in Homewood Cemetery, adjacent to the Frick Art & Historical Center.

PITTSBURGH, PA.- The Frick Art & Historical Center presents a new thematic tour of Clayton, the restored late-19th-century home of the Henry Clay Frick family, to be offered during the months of September and October. Mourning Customs in the Victorian Era is the second in a series of four new tours designed to provide visitors multiple ways to connect to Pittsburgh history and to find personal meaning in the stories that are told.

Loss of friends and loved ones was an all-too-common occurrence during the Victorian era. Appropriate social behavior was highly prized, and rules for behavior were written about extensively in etiquette books. Social cues given through one’s dress, black or white wreaths on front doors, black borders on calling cards, and many other ways were an important part of the process for those in mourning and those paying their respects. The tour, Mourning Customs in the Victorian Era, will include information about the Fricks and life at Clayton, and will put mourning practices in the context of the era in which they lived.

Since its opening to the public as a historic house museum in 1990, tours of Clayton have focused almost entirely on historical aspects of the mansion as the Frick family home. The majority of Clayton’s furnishings are original, and the archival and photo documentation that exists for Clayton is rare in the world of historic houses. Public tours reflect this richness of information. Since 2007, Frick curatorial staff has begun to find new ways to use that documentation—supplemented with additional research—to delve more deeply into other aspects of life during the Gilded Age.

All thematic tours present basic information about Clayton and the Frick family, however docents tailor the content to each particular topic. Each tour is its own unique experience, as Clayton docents do not work from a script. For visitors, this provides the opportunity for spontaneity and plenty of question-and-answer time with docents about the topics covered.

Thematic tours give visitors multiple ways to connect to Pittsburgh history and to find personal meaning in the stories that are told. And while Clayton docents have a tremendous amount of information to share, some of the best moments on a tour happen when visitors talk together about something they are seeing or hearing, and share their own personal experiences. Numerous objects from the Frick’s collection that illustrate the theme of the tour are displayed, and copies of archival materials are incorporated to engage visitors. These may include copies of various Frick family papers and receipts, period magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal and Delineator or cookbooks and etiquette books that were popular in the late 1800s. These items are used as resources as tours are developed and are often incorporated into the tours for all to see. Tours also feature a variety of touchable objects, purchased from reputable antique sellers, that visitors can handle; for example, a soap saver in the kitchen, a calling card case in the reception room or a period corset or bustle upstairs.

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New Tour at the Frick Art & Historical Center: Mourning Customs in the Victorian Era

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