Brown Bag Lecture: “Blast from the Past: 1950s Atomic Jewelry”

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Date: April 8, 2014
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Donna Bilak

A piece of jewelry is the material embodiment of the culture and society in which it was created, expressed through its design and fabrication techniques. Atomic jewelry is the designation used for the 1950s’ modernist genre of jewelry that featured stylized representations of the atomic energy symbol. An artifact of Cold War culture in America and Europe, this jewelry style encapsulates the public’s fascination and fears about nuclear power and testing in the wake of World War II. This talk brings to light the interconnectedness of the decorative arts with science, politics, and society in the 1950s through the exploration of the vogue for atomic jewelry that emerged at that time.

Donna Bilak holds an M.A. in history from York University and received her Ph.D. from the Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture (BGC). Before graduate school Bilak worked in Toronto’s jewelry industry as a designer and wax-model maker. Bilak has advanced her dual interest in the history of alchemy and the material culture of jewelry and technology at the BGC, a research institution in New York City dedicated to the encyclopedic study of ideas and things across culture. Bilak has lectured internationally on these two subjects, as discrete topics, and in interdisciplinary explorations that consider intersections in jewelry, science, and technology.She has been conducting research at CHF as the 2013–2014 Edelstein Postdoctoral Fellow.

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

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