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October 11th, 2019 | In The News
October 11, 2019 | In The News
Written by Kurt Bresswein for Lehigh Valley Live
Hundreds of purses and handbags owned by Lehigh Valley resident Ilene Hochberg Wood are displayed in the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts in Bethlehem, for an exhibit titled “PURSEonality: A Stylish Handbag History.” The exhibit opens Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, at Kemerer and the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, with an additional pop-up display at America on Wheels in Allentown. Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
There’s the red alligator bag from Hermès made famous by Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief.”
There’s the dachshund bag from fashion designer and Allentown native Thom Browne.
There’s the the once-in-a-lifetime look at the world’s largest collection of Anne-Marie of Paris bags, crafted to look like “Champagne and Ice Bucket” and “Telephone” and sold in one boutique in one hotel in Paris during the 1940s.
“PURSEonality: A Stylish Handbag History” is an exhibit with these and more — hundreds more — from the collection of Emmaus resident and author Ilene Hochberg Wood.
It opens Friday at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites’ Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, 427 N. New St., and Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, 66 W. Church St., both in Center City Bethlehem. A pop-up exhibit went up in July at the America on Wheels Museum, 5 N. Front St. in Allentown.
The exhibit runs through April at all three locations. An opening reception is scheduled 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at Kemerer with the collector herself. Admission is $10 for the public and free for members, and includes wine and light refreshments. Tickets are limited and available through historicbethlehem.org.
A combination ticket is available for admission to all three exhibit locations.
Emmaus resident and author Ilene Hochberg Wood is said to hold the world’s largest collection of Anne-Marie of Paris bags, like these. Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
Wood got her start collecting handbags when her mother gave her a small red purse as a child, according to Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites. Her collection now numbers around 3,000 handbags, some of which are suitable for everyday use.
“She does carry some of them around,” said Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites programming coordinator Alecia Caballero.
The exhibit includes around 15 percent of Wood’s collection, believed to be the largest collection in the United States and possibly the world, second maybe to the Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, Netherlands, according to Lindsey Jancay, director of collections and programming at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.
Lindsey Jancay, director of collections and programming at Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites, puts some finishing touches Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, on a display of hundreds of purses and handbags owned by Lehigh Valley resident Ilene Hochberg Wood in the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts in Bethlehem. Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
Wood is the author of several best-selling books, including “Dogue,” a canine version of Vogue magazine, which became an international bestseller; “Catmopolitan,” a feline look at Cosmopolitan magazine, which spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list in the No. 2 slot; as well as “Vanity Fur,” “Forbabes,” “Good Mousekeeping,” “Who Stole My Cheese?!!!,” “Stylish Knits for Dog,” “Dogs by Design” and “Posh Pups.”
Her collection grew as she married Irwin Hochberg, and the couple moved into Max Hess’ mansion in the West End of Allentown, Wood told Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Elizabeth Wellington. After Hochberg’s death, the collection continued to grow during and after Wood’s marriage to the late Allentown businessman and civic leader Bob Wood.
Prior to her writing career, Ilene Hochberg Wood spent over eight years in retail management for several department and specialty stores, Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites says in a program book about the exhibition. She left retail merchandising to begin her own pet-fashion business, Dogwear, which led to a canine fashion newsletter, Dog Wear Daily,” and, eventually, “Dogue.”
Here is a look at some more of her collection from inside the Kemerer Museum.
Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
Kurt Bresswein | For lehighvalleylive.com
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