Today’s post comes from Jacque.
The trip to Ireland is a week and a half behind me now, which allows the fog to clear as routine life, my real life, resumes. As I reflect on the trip the highlights are emerging from the distance of time and place. One of the highlights is the County Down Museum for which there was no admission fee, a small facility located in the building that lodged the county gaol and gallows during the 19th Century. Two wings of it display artifacts of the area reaching back to pre-Christian times.
The part that interested me, though, was the exhibit about the gaol, especially the display about the women, arrested for “crimes,” then sentenced to life in Australia. I have included the pictures of the narratives, telling of the women, children, and families transported for crimes. You will see that their crimes were crimes of poverty and survival, often preceded by the husbands and fathers of a family being arrested and sent off to Australia. That left a desperate family with no financial support.
Down a narrow hall from the main exhibits was a reproduced gaol cell holding women and children, including the one pallet to be used as a bed and shared by all in the cell. It was cold and dank and surely cleaner than the ones used 200 years ago. I looked at it and shuddered. I have seen exhibits similar to this before. What made this one so meaningful to me, what set this apart significantly, was the display of nineteenth century bonnets re-created in the styles of the time.
The arrays of bonnets, embellished and decorated with scraps of fabric, embroidered hearts, lace, and ribbons were so lovely. Representing these women without being creepy, I found the bonnets to be the perfect symbol of the lives of these women. The beauty of this has stayed with me. I keep returning to the picture of the bonnets to show others, to look at and study, to savor. I find it a pleasing, perfect memory. Ideal.
What ideal symbol have you encountered?