'Women Who Rock' exhibit opens at the Durham Western Heritage Museum
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 09:02
If you go down the stairs to look at the train cars in the Durham Western Heritage Museum, you may hear the voices of Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, or even Lady Gaga. Don’t be alarmed, just follow them past the train cars and on to the “Women Who Rock” exhibit.
At the entrance to the exhibit, you’ll be greeted with a mural of vinyl records. Each one features interesting facts about women in music history from the early 20th century to today. It’s a good tease for what lies ahead in the rest of the exhibit.
Throughout the exhibit, there are rows of display cases filled with all kinds of memorabilia from women throughout musical history. They are arranged by decade and artist. Each case is labeled with the singer’s name, a short biography and a description of all the items featured.
Most of the artists’ items are articles of clothing, such as Aretha Franklin’s hat from the 2008 inauguration, Britney Spears’ nude body suit from the 2000 VMA’s, and Madonna’s infamous cone bra leotard from her 1990 Blonde Ambition tour. They are all displayed on mannequins and many even have wigs that match the hair of the singer who wore the outfit. For instance, Cher’s Native American outfit has a long, black, pin-straight wig, and Meg White’s suit from the White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” album has a curly black wig.
While most of the clothing pieces are in great shape, one that would have been the most impressive is actually the biggest letdown. Lady Gaga’s infamous meat dress is among the many pieces of famous clothing people want to see. However, it doesn’t live up to expectations. The taxidermist who preserved the dress painted the meat dress and shoes a very bright, fake-looking red. He also plastered the whole inside and made sure to put his business card in it. Both are completely visible to museum-goers. The dress no longer looks like meat, but more like a high school student’s art project.
Not only are there garments and shoes from the stars, but other interesting pieces of memorabilia are there as well. Record sleeves, hand-written notes and even wigs are just some of the other pieces on display. Among the highlights were Madonna’s notepad when she had laryngitis, faxes from Keith Richards (he refuses to use email) to Marianne Faithfull and Joni Mitchell’s notes to friends. They even have Lady Gaga’s first piano.
At the end of the exhibit is the answer to the origin of the music playing throughout the exhibit. There is a dark room with a projector set up playing music videos and live performances of all the women featured throughout the exhibit. There are benches so visitors can sit and listen to a few songs, reminisce about each performer and check out the album covers that line the walls.
The “Women Who Rock” exhibit at the Durham Western Heritage Museum is fun and interesting for visitors of any age. Visitors will leave with knowledge about many female singers and at least one of their songs stuck in their head.