Kirkman opens with exhibit of Victorian-, Edwardian-era dresses

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An Era of Elegance is Kirkman House Museum's first exhibit of the season.

It consists of Victorian- and Edwardian-era dresses donated by pioneer Walla Walla families.

Early pioneer families who made their fortunes were able to enjoy the opulent period of the 1880s through 1910.

These dresses are examples of the finery of that era, said Rick Tuttle, a member of the museum board.

The display contains the museum's collection of more than 20 dresses and other accoutrements, most of which have never been displayed before.

The exhibit is available for viewing until May 13.

"We are very excited to have this room open for the first time in the 35-year history of the museum," Tuttle said.

The new exhibit room was previously used for storage and not open to the public.

"We have wanted to open this room for some time but there was no way to restore the room back to a bedroom at this time so the decision was made to use it as gallery space for permanent and temporary exhibits," he said.

The walls were patched and painted but the woodwork was left alone as the longterm goal is to strip them back to natural wood as it was when the family lived there.

"The room is complete but the permanent exhibit is not, as we've run out of grant funds for the permanent exhibit interpretation but we will continue to build it up over the next few months as we are able," Tuttle said.

This winter they rethought the permanent exhibits throughout the house and redistributed much of the stored furniture stored to public spaces.

A settee was repaired and is now useable and a large dresser was moved to the collections processing room.

Another temporary resident of the room is a 9-foot by 12-foot area rug donated to the museum to sell and raise funds for operations.

"We will be starting a silent auction for this beautiful rug soon. The whole house has been transformed over the winter and has never looked as good as it does now, so even if you visited last year you will see many new things," Tuttle said.

The museum is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is $5 per person or $20 per family. For information call 529-4373.

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