Nanny – A Servant Wager Cup

Online databases are incredible tools. While my museum career has mostly focused on textiles, dress, and ethnographic materials, I never know what is going to inspire me when I search,, (Colonial Williamsburg), and so forth. I’ve heard a lot of grumbling in the past from staff when directives to get our collections management databases online. “Our photography is old!” “How can we review all the data?” “How will we handle all those research requests it will generate?” The mission of every museum (look at their collection management policies)  is to collect, study, preserve, and educate – and we can do that to an even greater extent by putting our databases online. And communicating that managing and communicating about collections is a work in progress: to remain vital, the museum acts like a living, breathing animal. Our work to document the collection will never be complete.

So I enjoyed tripping over this wager cup in the MFA Boston database. As a collection manager, its an indulgence to delve into the pure joy of collections. I’m often planning at higher levels for collection care. I’ve even been labeled [positively] “content agnostic.” Finding this charming silver wager cup with a wealth of garment details was the result of  searching the database. Visit her record here, where you can zoom in on the image. Enjoy the cuffs on her shift,  the trim on her hat, the rosettes on her shoes, her breast knot, the ruffle on her handkerchief, the gathers on her apron, and the ribbon flapping in her face, all executed in silver gilt.

Find joy in collections available online.

Nanny, Wager Cup. 1777-78. 66.435 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


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.

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