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Revisiting the 1920 Rochester Homelands Exhibition

Armenian Rug Maker  (Photo by Stone, Courtesy the Herald)

Armenian Rug Maker (Photo by Stone, Courtesy the Herald)

Scholar Diana Greenwold recently published an article reviewing a series of “Homelands” exhibitions that took place across the eastern U.S. beginning in Buffalo in 1919. The exhibitions were part of a national response to the “red scares” after World War I—encouraging familiarity with the traditional arts and crafts of the cultures of immigrants to the US, and introducing ethnic newcomers to their local communities. The article, “The Great Palace of American Civilization”: Allan Eaton’s Arts and Crafts of the Homelands, 1919-1932, can be found in vol. 3 no. 1 of Contemporaneity: Historical Presence in Visual Culture.

Inspired by the successful exhibitions in Buffalo & Albany, the Memorial Art Gallery collaborated with the Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Education and the City of Rochester in organizing a 10-day exhibition celebrating the arts & culture of immigrant citizens. The exhibition, held on the grounds of Exposition Park, was hugely successful, attracting a total of 160,000 visitors.

MAG director George Herdle coordinated the exhibits of national arts & crafts, making contact with local ethnic committees to identify material for exhibition. There were demonstrations of ethnic music and dance during the exhibition. Rochester school pupils created posters for the exhibition.
Posters by Public School Pupils

Posters by Public School Pupils

See more images from the Rochester exhibition.

Gertrude Herdle Moore and Isabel Herdle organized later Homelands exhibitions in the 1940s and 1950s, using the same contact cards that their father had used in 1920. They noted that when their father organized the first Homelands exhibitions, traditional objects were hidden away in attics while later generations treated them as prized family treasures.

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