NRF promotes and invests in the architectural heritage of the Newport community, the traditional building trades, and Doris Duke’s fine and decorative arts collections, for the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
As a leader in the preservation of early American architecture, NRF supports research and education in areas directly related to its collections and issues of critical concern to the field of historic preservation.
Tour Doris Duke’s art-filled mansion and enjoy panoramic ocean views from the extensive grounds, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Open late March to November.
Experience the only museum in the world specializing in 18th-century Newport furniture and related decorative arts. Open late May to October.
Explore 40 acres of open space, a tribute to the agrarian heritage of Aquidneck Island. The site is open daily from dawn to dusk for public enjoyment.
Newport Restoration Foundation holds one of the largest collections of period architecture owned by a single organization anywhere in the United States.
Celebrate excellence in historic preservation efforts within the City of Newport, Rhode Island.
Live amidst history by renting one of our many historic properties.
Help us to continue a lived-in legacy by becoming a Restoration Partner today.
Doris Duke was a stranger to me.
I say, “was,” because after you sort through someone’s clothing (including underwear), you get to know them fairly well.
The main objective of my internship at Rough Point over the summer and fall was to accession (or catalogue) a recent collection of her clothes that were shipped from her former Shangri-La property in Hawaii to the museum staff at NRF.
Some things I learned about Doris while doing this were that she loved belts, enjoyed a comfy caftan, and had a penchant for bright colors and modern fashions. A portrait of her, printed to a life-size scale, watched over me diligently in my temporary office as I browsed her clothing collection, which was busting out of the boxes from Hawai’i. The vast swath of styles stretched over decades from the 1930s to the 1980s, and, of course, I had some personal favorites along the way.
I enjoyed seeing the bright prints and short skirts of the 1960s and 1970s, and cooed over the delicate beadwork on bias-cut gowns. However, there was, and still is, an academic barrier that kept me from loving them. As a graduate student who is versed in fashion history, each of these garments turned into a mini-study. These things, to me, were relics to be treated with the utmost delicacy and care. A majority of the clothing I referred to as objects, divided from me by time and space. These objects were cool, but they were not applicable to my life.
What was applicable, and the clothes that I loved, were tourist t-shirts from the mid-to-late 80s. I never grew up wearing crinolines or mod suits, nor did I ever see anyone wearing any in my day-to-day life. But having been born in the late 90s, I did recognize t-shirts.
Doris had t-shirts from trips she took to Hawai’i, Montana, and more– little “touristy” things that might even be considered cheap looking to some people. These shirts made Doris feel real to me, and not just some larger than life figure that watched me from a poster. These are things that she would have acquired late in her life, and very much reminded me of my own grandmothers. It was a very bittersweet moment, looking over these casual clothes and being reminded that Doris was once my grandmothers’ age. The experience left me feeling melancholy, but with a new affinity for an aging woman who had a life well-lived, and probably grew to enjoy the comfort of a t-shirt.
I once again think of my own grandmothers and the stories they tell about their lives. The decades scarcely understood by myself, having never lived them, but still sharing an intimate connection through clothing. They love a good t-shirt, I love a good t-shirt, and so did Doris.
By Paige Bailey
Paige Bailey was the curatorial graduate intern for 2021 summer and fall. Paige is in her second year of the Master of Science degree in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island.
Summer programming for visitors of all ages continues at Rough Point Museum, Whitehorne House Museum, and Prescott Farm!
Rough Point Museum, Whitehorne House Museum, and Prescott Farm will offer a variety of free and ticketed programs for all ages and interests this July.
Throughout the month of May, we have shared stories about our current projects and the people behind the scenes who help make NRF’s preservation work possible.