Through interviews with leading figures in the world of fine and decorative arts, Curious Objects—a podcast from The Magazine Antiques—explores the hidden histories, the little-known facts, the intricacies, and the idiosyncrasies that breathe life and energy into historical works of craft and art.
A Fireback from Hell—Ironworks and Industrial Labor in the Antebellum South, with Torren Gatson
Scholar Torren Gatson, guest editor for the current edition of the MESDA Journal, comes on the pod to talk about an iron fireback (a metal plate protecting the back wall of a fireplace) produced at the Vesuvius Furnace in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Established by revolutionary war veteran Joseph Graham, the furnace depended on slave labor—oftentimes quite skilled—as well as that of freedmen and white women. Gatson’s research paints a compelling picture of the unique work culture this state of affairs produced.
A Journey to the Center of the Earth, with Robert McCracken Peck
According to some, underneath our feet is a second, inverted world, home to strange beasts, the Lost Tribes of Israel . . . maybe even Hitler. In the nineteenth century, a booster for this “hollow earth” theory was one John Cleves Symmes of Sussex County, New Jersey. Accompanied by a perforated wooden globe, between 1818 and 1827 Symmes crisscrossed the United States delivering lectures on the existence of portals to this “underworld” located at the poles, and urging an expedition be undertaken to discover them. Drexel University’s Robert McCracken Peck comes on the pod to talk about the theory and the globe in this episode of Curious Objects.
An Armchair's Astonishing Provenance, with Tiffany Momon
This month, Ben speaks with Tiffany Momon, visiting assistant professor at Sewanee University in Tennessee, and founder of the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive, a scholarly resource that explores the contributions that African Americans have made to the material culture of the United States. Tiffany and Ben focus their attention on a chair made by enslaved craftsmen at Leonidas Polk’s Leighton Plantation in Louisiana, and Tiffany offers tips on what institutions and researchers can do to ensure they’re telling the full story of the decorative arts.
The Life and Labor of Enslaved Potter Dave Drake, with Ethan Lasser
In 1834 a law was passed in South Carolina that prohibited slaves from reading or writing. The punishment for transgressors? Fifty lashes. That same year, Dave Drake, an enslaved potter at work in Edgefield County inscribed his first poem on a large stoneware jug he'd made. In this episode of the podcast, Ethan Lasser, chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, tells Dave’s story and that of an 1857 storage jar that bears the epigrammatic lines: "I made this Jar for Cash-/ though its called lucre trash/ Dave.”
Thirty-five Saxon Suits of Armor, with Chassica Kirchhoff
It's kinetic sculpture, it's haute couture, it’s . . . armor! This month, Ben speaks with Chassica Kirchhoff, an assistant curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts, about a suite of metal suits from the 1500s that were worn and jousted in by the dukes of Saxony. Emblematic of the feisty Protestant state’s chivalric past and supreme examples of Saxon metalworking prowess, by the 1700s the suits of armor had come to represent “a fulcrum between the early modern past and the Enlightenment present,” Kirchoff says. Shortly thereafter they went on display at the famous Green Vault in Dresden, a precursor of modern museums.
SPECIAL EPISODE 4: Licking Glass, Smelling Silver, and Other Tricks of the Trade
Art historian Isabelle Kent regales Ben with the tale of five stained-glass roundels gracing the windows of her childhood home in London's Bedford Park, and he tells her all about his pair of telescoping Sheffield plate candelabra. Bonus tidbit: tips on how to distinguish between a bogus antique and the genuine item.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A great listen! More episodes please :-)
Excellent podcast for curious minds
This is the antiques podcast i’ve been looking for. 10/10.