Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Siting Julia: Julia Child Centenary Exhibition

Opening this Friday, September 21, the Siting Julia: Julia Child Centenary Exhibition from the Schlesinger Library's Julia Child Papers traces her path through various sites: post–World War II Paris, where she learned to cook and to teach cooking and began the decade-long writing collaboration that produced Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she became an icon of its cultural scene and launched her career in television; and national television, where she entered into millions of households and made the cooking show a media phenomenon.

In this exhibition, we travel with her and her husband Paul Child to Ceylon, southern France, Germany, Norway, and the Maine coast. We follow the tortuous but ultimately triumphant progress of the Mastering manuscript, tread in her diligent steps through experiments in food science and glimpse her library of culinary book treasures.

Julia in her office, 1963Julia in her office, 1963Our exhibit situates Julia in locations that had an organic relationship to her work and accomplishments through the documents, images, and objects found in her collection. Julia Child exemplifies the individual who needed to break free of her place of origin in order to find herself. The new sites to which she moved determined the direction of her life. Her achievements—learning to organize information, do systematic research, anddirect teams of people in the OSS; finding Paul, the love of her life and indispensable partner in her endeavors; discovering her passion for French food and mastering its preparation; producing a brilliant and influential cookbook; and rising to national television stardom—were all products of her movement through sites such as Ceylon, Paris, and Cambridge, where she found the context, the inspiration, and the tools to become the Julia Child we honor in this year of her centenary. The Schlesinger's collection is rich and deep in documentation of the extraordinary life of a groundbreaking woman, as well as that of her husband Paul, whose prolific correspondence and thousands of photographs draw us into their worlds with intense immediacy.

The exhibit also includes Julia's awards and medals, as well as materials from the complementary papers of Simone Beck, Elizabeth David, Avis DeVoto, and Ruth Lockwood. The multimedia kiosk brings Julia to life with clips and slide shows from the libray's audiovisual holdings, featuring interviews, a tribute in song, and Julia's 1981 talk about her relationship with the culinary collection at the Schlesinger Library. 

Read more about the sites and items in the Julia Child Centenary Exhibition.