What’s in a Name?

Hat. Yarmulkah. Kippah. Beanie. Purse. Pastie. Parasol. Screen (to cover food).

Some fun words popped up today in the guessing game that has become our regular Wednesday mystery artifact feature. (And some fun phrases: “bejeweled sea creature” indeed!) Frankly, we figured on the hat-related responses and… they are basically correct.

But, what is in a name, indeed? That famous quotation happens to be a bit of a clue as to the provenance of this particular piece of hear-wear. It’s not your ordinary chapeau, you know. (The jewels sort of give that away.)

But before the big reveal, here’s the rest of quotation, with a bit of cheeky paraphrasing (forgive us, Will): “That which we call a cap / By any other name would fit as snugly.” (Or something like that.) Know the reference? It’s Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

So… believe it or not…

This cap was worn by Farmington-born opera singer Lillian Nordica when she sang the part of “Juliette” in French composer Charles-François Gounod’s Roméo and Juliette in Monte Carlo in 1891, opposite Jean de Reszke. If you want to learn more about Nordica, there are 40 individual items on Maine Memory about the singer, who was born in 1857, as well as an entire exhibit about her.

Today’s artifact also serves as a nice teaser for the upcoming new MHS museum exhibit, Dressing Up, Fitting In, Standing Out: Adornment and Identity in Maine. The exhibit will draw heavily on the MHS collection of artifacts of adornments–hats, jewelry, shoes, hair combs, walking sticks, and other personal accessories–as well as feature photographs and paintings to help us understand Maine’s social and cultural values through dress at different times in the state’s history. The exhibit opens to the public on June 24, 2011, and will stay up until May 27, 2012.

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