The Curator of Haverford's Special Collectors Co-edits Volume on Quaker Aesthetics
Entitled Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption, the eleven interpretive essays to be published in December by the University of Pennsylvania Press are arranged in three sections focusing on production, consumption, and modernity, with a brief introduction for each section.
According to Lapsansky, Quaker Aesthetics“surveys examples of the dress, interior home designs and architecture created or purchased by Quakers in the 18th, 19th and early 20th century.
â€œThe book examines whether or not there is a connection between theology – in this case, Quakerism – and the notion of a uniquely Quaker style in architecture, dress and domestic interiors,” explains Lapsansky.
In its synopsis of the book, the publisher notes that Quakers dominated the political and social landscape of the Delaware Valley in early America. Because of the region's political and economic influence during that period, the Quakers had easy access to the latest trends in fashion and business.“Detailing how Quakers have manufactured, bought and used such goods as clothing, furniture, and buildings, the essays in Quaker Aesthetics reveal a much more complicated picture than that of a simple people with simple tastes.”
Contributors to the book bring a variety of perspectives. Catherine Lavoie, for example, has worked with the Historical American Buildings Survey to document meetinghouses; John Groff directs a local historic house site; and J. William Frost is a member of the history faculty at Swarthmore College.
In addition to her work on Quaker Aesthetics, Lapsansky contributed an essay to Pennsylvania: A History of the Commonwealth, edited by Randall Miller and William Pencak (Penn State Press, 2002), and she is under contract with Penn State Press for her study of a 19th-century Quaker abolitionist, entitled With an Eye to Emigration: Benjamin Coates and the Colonization Movement.
Lapsansky also is the author of the book, Neighborhoods in Transition: William Penn's Dream and Urban Reality, an architectural and sociological study of a Philadelphia neighborhood as it transformed from a suburb into an urban community from 1752 to 1854. She is a frequent contributor to book review columns in the Journal of American History, the Women's Review of Books, the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and Quaker Studies.
As part of a two-year project of the National Endowment of the Humanities, which explored how Americans think of themselves as Americans, Lapsansky coordinated a five-week summer institute in which dozens of college professors explored how religion and diversity are handled in the country's undergraduate classrooms.
A member of the College's history faculty since 1990, Lapsansky also is curator of Haverford's Special Collections which includes one of the most extensive collections of Quaker history in the world.