Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Robbie G. Blakemore
Imogene M. Ford, Susan Becker, Mary Francis Drake
The interiors of the Mallory-Neely House are valuable surviving documents of nineteenth century American culture warranting careful research, preservation and interpretation. Victorian Village, where the mansion is located in Memphis, is a nationally recognized enclave of nineteenth-century domestic structures. Previous research has centered primarily on the genealogical background of the owners and to a much lesser degree on the architectural history of these houses; none had focused in a scholarly manner on the interiors and furnishings. This is especially true of the Mallory-Neely House, the only one containing its original interior decor. These represent stratification of occupation and renovation by five families. Major phases of Victorian interior architectural treatment, changing approaches to interior decoration, and myriad Victorian furniture styles are represented.
Due to an almost total lack of written documentation directly concerning the Mallory-Neely interiors, a material cultures methodological approach was used. Each of the interconnected ceremonial rooms was treated as an artifact. A system was developed in order to "read” and gather data about each component of these interiors as well as the room ensemble as a whole. This information was then coupled with written evidence from various archival sources to form a base for interpretation.
The artifacts comprising the Mallory-Neely interiors were found to be reflective of a society evolving towards modernization and representative of technological change. Dynamic change brought disruption of the social order and created a desire among Victorians for stabilizing symbols. The Mallory-Neely ceremonial interiors were created as a stage of status where symbolic social ritual was enacted. The interiors and their contents along with their closely related architectural and landscape surround visually communicated the owners' elite status in the hierarchial class structure of the time.
Ray, Lawrence Allen, "Victorian Material Culture in Memphis, Tennessee: The Mallory-Neely House Interiors As Artifact. " PhD diss., University of Tennessee, 1988.