Argand Lamp – A moment of pause for Barbara Carson

Barbara Carson was one of my professors in The George Washington University’s M.A. program in Museum Studies. I took her American Decorative Arts and Time and Light in the Decorative Arts courses, and was sorry I didn’t get to take her dining class – she hadn’t developed it by the time I graduated in 1999.

She passed away this year, and today they are holding a memorial concert in her honor in Williamsburg. Barbara lived there with her husband Cary Carson, another noted scholar of American material culture and former vice president of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Barbara allowed me to study costume as a decorative art. While other professors  scoffed, she understood that women and their dress often formed part of the accepted fashion within the public rooms of Well-to-do houses. They were mobile extensions of ornament. Where others were skeptical, Barbara was encouraging.

Whenever I see an Argand Lamp, the oil lamp invented by Aime Argand in 1780 that improved combustion and therefore lessened the need for snuffing the wick, I think of Barbara. Thank you.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.