Why do we visit pieces and study them in person? Especially nowadays, many collections are being photographed in high resolution and posted on websites. Museums want to share their pieces with the world and many have a mission to encourage viewing their items. But there have been many times when we have been in a museum study room viewing items and the curator has asked us, “Why do you want to see these? We posted hi-res images online.”
The simple answer is that embroidered items are dimensional. We see so many things in person that just aren’t apparent in a photograph. This pictorial piece in the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a gorgeous example. It is highly dimensional with padded, raised, and appliqued work featured in many areas to create a visually rich story. A high-res image would be taken from the top, looking straight down. But the true details of the dimensionality don’t show up until we take a picture from the side: see the acorns or the tiny picots on the cuff of the gentleman in the pavilion.
This is an immensely detailed picture and we could quite seriously write an entire book on the various stitching techniques, the layout choices, materials, and meaning of the imagery. For now, we are sharing this one small aspect of this piece to give you a sense of why it’s important to view items in person.