It all started with a dress…

My love of late Imperial Russian history… My fascination with Nicholas & Alexandra… My obsession with Anastasia and the story of Anna Anderson…

But living in Arkansas, it was unlikely that I would be able to explore these passions further in a scholarly way. In graduate school we were encouraged to research and write about something Arkansas-related. It was good for Arkansas history (expanding the scholarship of our small and under studied state) and research was easier to access because it was close to home.

And then one day while working that the Old State House Museum, I discovered that late imperial Russian history, Nicholas & Alexandra and Anastasia were much closer than I thought.

The Breckinridge gown was in the collection of the Old State House Museum. Worn by Katherine Carson Breckinridge to the coronation of Nicholas & Alexandra in 1896, the gown was made by Redfern. I’d found my thesis topic. I could do a material culture study of the gown, right?

Well not so quickly. One item doesn’t make a material culture study. You need more. You need a wardrobe or at least a few gowns worn by the same person or the same designer.

So it started with a dress. But it’s really about the papers. The letters. The receipts. The paper trail that people leave about their life and their time.

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