PURSEonality: A Stylish Handbag History


In order to minimize contact with the general public in response to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites will close the Moravian Museum, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, and Visitor Center and Gift Shops effective Friday, March 13 and will suspend visits, walking tours, and programming through Sunday, March 22. 

Please check their website for updates and more information.

From the Personal Collection of Ilene Hochberg Wood

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 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.

Displays at The Kemerer Museum 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.

Additional displays at The Moravian Museum focus on a selection of needlepoint handbags displayed alongside examples of needlepoint from the collection. A third display at America on Wheels explores the link between automotive innovation and fashion design.

Get the best deal by purchasing a combo ticket to visit all three sites! Just click here

A Note from the Collector, Ilene Hochberg Wood

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 to the war years and through the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today.