What if strands of history could be traced
through strands of hair? As strange as it sounds, a handful of museums around
the world have attempted to do just that, with over-the-top displays of
Across countries and throughout time, human hair
and its various styles have acted as important cultural signifiers, symbolising
wealth, status and age. Follow the course of history with one of these several exhibitions
on locks from centuries past.
Museé de Quai Branly, Paris, France
A temporary exhibit running
until 14 July, Cheveux
Chéris (Beloved Hair) aims to
explore the anthropology and social impact of hair. The display features
objects such as an African chieftain’s headdress, locks of hair that served as
mementos of children or of the dead from Victorian England and strands of hair that
were cut after an initiation retreat in Papua New Guinea.
Along with the physical specimens, paintings,
sculptures and photographs detailing the differences in hair among cultures and
eras are on display.
Japanese Coiffure Museum, Kyoto, Japan
Hair gets small in this museum,
which chronicles the changes in Japanese hairstyles over time. More than 115 styles
are reproduced at one-fourth of life–size as wigs on mannequins. The collection
also includes 200 geisha hair ornaments and combs. A 75-minute video explains how
to create some of the intricate styles.
Chez Galip Hair Museum, Avanos, Turkey
Housed inside a cave in the ancient region of Cappadocia, the Chez Galip Hair
Museum catalogues the hair of more than 16,000 women from around the world by
hanging the strands across the cave’s arches. Local potter Chez Galip started
the museum in 1979, fascinated by stories of women who leave their hair behind
as a memento for a loved one. Since then, many women who have visited the cave
have cut a lock of their own hair, tying it to a card with their phone number
Twice a year, Galip pulls 10 strands from his collection
and invites these women back to Avanos, Turkey for a week-long pottery workshop
to thank them for contributing to the museum.
Leila’s Hair Museum, Independence, Missouri
The framed wreaths on display at Leila’s
are not always immediately recognised as human hair. The intricate works all
date to before 1900, when it was fashionable for European and North American
families to preserve their hair in works of art or jewellery resembling flowers
or leaves. Leila Cohoon’s collection of
159 wreaths and more than 2,000 pieces of jewellery has continued to grow as
people hear of the museum and donate family pieces.