Recently, the museum received a kind donation from the Estate of Joyce Cunningham, consisting of five beaded items dating to the 1910s. Born in 1928, Joyce was a long-time Atikokan resident who loved gardening, preserving, crocheting and feeding Whiskey Jacks. Her husband, Harold, was a heavy equipment operator who worked the shovel at Caland Mine. Joyce inherited these beautiful beaded pieces from her mother, Erie Hann, who immigrated to Thunder Bay from England in 1901. Born in 1899, Erie would have been well-versed in several types of domestic work, including beading and embroidery. Her grandson, Bruce, and grand-daughter-in-law, Nancy, state that Erie made the 1914 keepsake pillow seen below, and also believe that she hand-crafted the other pieces as well.
Beaded clothing and accessories have been an art form practiced for thousands of years by individuals from various cultures around the world. Delicately beaded handbags became popular in the Victorian era, making glass beads a major part of domestic textile art. Beading and embroidery played a central role in the daily lives of middle class women and their female children. They spent countless hours embroidering their purses as a way to attract prospective mates. Purses like the one seen in the photographs above can be viewed as a wearable sampler that allowed women to showcase their domestic abilities. The 1847 Quarterly Review stated that, "dress becomes a sort of symbolic language - a kind of personal glossary...[and] every woman walks around with a placard on which her leading qualities are advertised."
In the later decades of the 1800s beaded purses saw a decline in popularity, only to see a resurgence again at the beginning of the 20th century. The keepsake pillow seen here was decorated with the date 1914, showing that the popularity for this aesthetic returned at this time. During the First World War, beading continued to be a fashion trend. In 1914, The Times fashion columnist reported that “these bead bags carry us straight back fifty years to the days of hoop skirts and muslin tuckers, lace mitts and pantalettes…” Perhaps the volatility and uncertainty of this period left women with a longing for the past, and beaded items satisfied their need for the golden age.
 Informal Interview with Bruce and Nancy Cunningham, June 13, 2017.
 Random History. Fashion is in the Bag: A History of Handbags. http://www.randomhistory.com/2008/10/01_handbag.html, (accessed June 13, 2017)
 Helene E Roberts. "The Exquisite Slave: The Role of Clothing in the Making of the Victorian Woman," Sings: The Role of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 2, no. 3., 1977., 554.
 Hoag Levins. Beaded Bags and Industrial History: Six Hundred Years of Glittering Commerce, 2005, historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews98.shtml. (accessed June 13, 2017)