Monday, March 22, 2010

A walk through “Virtue, vice, and contraband.”

For the next several posts, I am going to take you on a walk through the Dittrick’s interpretive exhibition, “Virtue, vice, and contraband: a history of contraception in America.” Along the way, we’ll linger to look closer at particular items -- rare books, images, and artifacts. It’s the largest and most comprehensive exhibit on this topic in North America, and show cases the Percy Skuy collection on the history of contraception that came to the Dittrick in late 2004.

I first saw the Skuy collection in Toronto, at the Janssen Ortho headquarters, and found it quirky, amusing, and informative. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that collection would come our way. Then, in the summer of 2003 Percy called and wanted to know if the Dittrick might wish to provide a home to his collection. It wasn’t a done deal; Percy was in conversation with at least two other museums. But I felt that we had much to offer and mounted a concerted pitch to set forth our cause. The happy outcome: the collection came to Cleveland.

Our next step? Work through the re-interpretation and installation of the Skuy collection in its own dedicated space. That finally came to pass last September when we opened “Virtue, vice, and contraband: a history of contraception in America.” In time, we will offer a virtual version of the exhibition on the Skuy collection website. For the moment, however, I will take you on a stroll through the display, highlighting the curious and the rare, as well as the banal and commonplace. It’s all grist for the mill in our museum, and I can guarantee you that you won’t see this stuff elsewhere. The Skuy collection is one of a kind.

Jim Edmonson

Shoo stork image courtesy of Deanna Dahlsad

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