Good Manners: Everyday Etiquette Past & Present
From Saturday, November 22nd, 2008 until Saturday, April 4th, 2009
Today we often hear, especially from the older generation, that good manners are dead. It’s true that some of the meaningless older formalities have vanished. It’s true that social relationships have become more informal and casual in the complex modern world. Yet there probably never has been a time when graciousness, self-discipline, and consideration for others were so badly needed, to offset the stresses and strains of present-day living. ~ Etiquette for Everybody, 1952
This statement could have been said standing in the museum gallery yesterday as easily as 1952. It seems like each generation thinks that the one that comes after it has bad manners and don’t show the proper respect to one another and their elders. A member of the younger generation probably thinks their manners are just fine. The idea of knowing proper etiquette and having good manners might even seem a little old-fashioned and outdated in our more diverse, casual, and busy society. Yet, we follow both written and unwritten rules of etiquette everyday from walking down the street to sending an email. The definition of what it means to have good manners changes over time and is dependent on the situation, what is fashionable, and the people involved. Most people don’t want to offend those around them but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do in any given situation. For more than a century, experts in the field of etiquette have been writing books, articles, and now, websites and blogs devoted to discussing, answering questions, and suggesting guidelines for proper etiquette to help us understand the ever-changing definition of good manners. Our new exhibition, Good Manners, utilizes an assortment of etiquette books in the Historical Society’s collection donated by Lois Over as well as contemporary books and websites to explore the etiquette of different aspects of everyday living, comparing the guidelines for good etiquette of the past with those of the present. You’ll see that etiquette that was important many years ago, in many cases, is still important, though we might handle things just a little bit differently in today’s society.