The Familial Veil
Clermont Forum II: Interpreting Clermont’s History Through Art, was a 2014 art exhibition curated by The Rotating History Project at Clermont Farm, a beautiful state-owned architectural study site in Berryville, Virginia. I was entrusted with many pieces of clothing, fabric, trimmings, and accessories left behind by previous owners of Clermont, dated by conservators to be from a period between 1870 - 1979. I photographed each piece and subsequently published a book, then utilized the clothing to create The Familial Veil, a site-specific installation in an upstairs bedroom of the original 1755 home.
The Rotating History Project, in cooperation with The Clermont Foundation and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources presented this six week show in the historic buildings of of Clermont, an 18th century 360-acre farmstead in Clarke County, Virginia, in the northern Shenandoah Valley. The exhibition was seen as a means to imaginatively engage the public with the history of the site. From the exhibition literature:
"Clermont Farm is a well-preserved complex of buildings ranging in date from 1755 to the mid-twentieth century. Formerly in the hands of only four families since its original survey by an 18-year old George Washington in 1750, and previously used by Native Americans for game production and hunting lands, the farm is now owned by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and managed by The Clermont Foundation. Clermont remains a working farm, involved with local food production and agricultural education, as well as a state historic site currently under intensive study. The history of Clermont is a continuous one, of various peoples using and living on the land, sometimes peacefully and sometimes in violent conflict... a micro-history of America. The exhibition sought to explore a period of time beginning with the settlement of the Atlantic coast by Europeans, the last period when native Americans were still the primary inhabitants still shaping the landscape, and a place taken by Europeans, who in turn brought enslaved Africans to that same landscape, and to Clermont. Clermont Forum II: Interpreting Clermont’s History Through Art invites artists to explore and create site-specific works that draw on topics specific to Clermont’s history - such as the roles of women and African Americans, agriculture and rural life, and the architectural and material culture of the homestead and its surrounding communities."
Clermont Farm is an 18th century farmstead located in the tiny town of Berryville, in Clarke County, Virginia. Clermont was donated to the people of Virginia by Elizabeth Rust Williams upon her death in 2004. It now stands as a 360 acre research and training site in American history, historic architectural preservation, and agriculture, and is owned by the Department of Historic Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Seam by Seam: A Study of the Historical Garments of Clermont Farm is a comprehensive visual document of historical garments worn and collected by generations of Clermont Farm inhabitants. The garments pictured were carefully chosen by the author, fiber artist Melissa Webb, from a large collection of clothing, accessories, and trimmings found at Clermont. These have been studied, documented, modified, and adapted for her site specific sculptural installation, The Familial Veil. This piece was created in the upstairs bedroom of Clermont's original 1756 house structure for the on-site exhibition Clermont Forum II: Interpreting Clermont's History Through Art, curated by The Rotating History Project in 2014.
The garments featured in this book have also been studied by conservators, thier dates approximated, their origins both known and unknown. Clermont Foundation founder Elizabeth Williams, and her mother Caroline Rust Williams are two of the known owners of these garments. For the most part the rest, either stashed away and forgotten, or else carefully preserved over a period of many years by the women of Clermont, were found with no notation indicating their previous owners.
The information in this book was gathered with immeasurable assistance from Clermont Foundation CEO Bob Stieg.
The book can be purchased, or viewed for free online here: