Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites

In association with the Smithsonian Institution


Out & About: A Collection of Purses & Clutches

From the Personal Collection of Ilene Hochberg Wood

Showing September 21, 2019 - April 30, 2020,
at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts and the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem.

Spanning the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, ranging in style from folk art, to contemporary designer to embroidered. Wood’s collection, which numbers into the thousands, is broken up into sub collections of 150 to ~ 300 purses grouped by material, aesthetic elements, and use.

Explore a timeline of handbags, representing the trends of each decade, displayed alongside corresponding fashions and paired with life-sized graphics from fashion advertisements that visitors can pose alongside.

Additional displays at The Kemerer Museum will consider themes of design, innovation, materials, the personal stories of previous handbag owners and eccentric designers, and the local artist section will spotlight bags hand decorated by local artists invited to participate.

The Moravian Museum displays will focus on a selection of needlepoint handbags displayed alongside examples of needlepoint from our collection.

About Ilene Hochberg Wood

"Women love handbags. They are totems, and objects of desire, that convey who we are and what we hold dear, both literally and figuratively. Look at any woman and the bag she carries, and you learn a lot about her, and the image she wants to convey to the world. Empty the bag out and examine its contents, to learn who she really is inside, and what she finds essential to her everyday existence


I am interested in fashion, and the artistry and history of purses. I am drawn to bags that convey a story about their past, and the women who originally owned them. I appreciate originality, humor, bold statements, and details that give insight into the women who chose to carry them.


My collection is comprised of many categories. “It Bags”, evening bags, needlepoint bags, wooden bags, box bags, tramp art bags, and bags that signify their time and era, from the Victorian period through the jazz age, war years, and the “50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and today."

~ Ilene Hochberg Wood

Opening Reception

Join us for the 2019 Schneider Lecture
Thursday, September 26 from 6pm - 9pm

Durham Springs, 5065 Lehnenberg Rd, Kintnersville, PA 18930

Join us for an evening of high fashion through the years, showcasing pieces from Ilene Hochberg Wood's collection. Be the first to see and learn about these amazing purses, clutches, and handbags. Hear from Ilene Hochberg Wood about her journey and experiences in building her collection, where many of her pieces came from, and what makes them so incredibly special. Reservations required - tickets coming soon!

Thank You To Our Sponsors, Partners, and Supporters


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