The Decades of Entertainment
Just like it took a village to run the Estate in the Bourn and Roth days, it takes a village to create new Filoli exhibitions. Staff from Collections, Interpretation, and Facilities collaborate to re- envision the rooms in House, which are themed around entertainment in specific decades.
Resetting the House is a fun opportunity to tell new stories. Collections pulls together the objects that set the scene in the House. Sometimes in dramatic ways, like the table setting recreating the Drunks Dinner. Or bringing out objects like Tony Duquette’s flying blue and white ship from the 1964 Blue and White Ball. In other moments it’s more subtle, like the vintage bakelite Hawaiian style coasters in the family room. It’s the little details that help take our visitors back in time.
In reimagining the Trophy Room into a late Bourn period Gentlemen’s Lounge our Facilities team provided support in multiple ways. First, helping arrange for the floors to be refinished, and later helping move furniture into place. In the Kitchen their hard work and attention to detail has restored the floor to ceiling shelves in the cold room allowing us to bring that space back to life.
The Interpretation team creates signage, in this case, spotlighting Filoli stories from each decade. We explore the Roths’ Red Cross service in the 1940s-era Kitchen, for example, while contextualizing family memories with a timeline feature that notes landmark events like the outbreak of World War II, end of Prohibition, and ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. This juxtaposition provides a new perspective with which to view familiar Bourn and Roth family stories. How fun to remember that Ernest Peixotto painted the beautifully classic Ballroom murals at the same time as Georgia O’Keeffe was revolutionizing the art world with her first modernist flower painting!
Interpretation also works with a sound designer to create soundscapes. Our goal isn’t just to make the House come alive, we also want to put visitors in a certain moment in time by referencing historical events and music. In the WWII-era Kitchen, the cooks are working away to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” while kettles steam and pots clink on the stove. In the Dining Room, Filoli staff from all departments (we work with a truly multi-talented team!) helped voice the characters for the Prohibition-era Drunks Dinner. In a toast, they “raise their glasses to Roosevelt,” who ended Prohibition soon after taking office.
In the 1962 Family Room, Mr. Roth mixes a cocktail and watches TV while Mrs. Roth and friends play bridge. Hours of Matson infomercials served as inspiration for voiceover language — which is strikingly different from modern commercials. With these to reference, we created a two-minute commercial for the Royal Hawaiian, a Matson hotel. So we could share the commercial with our guests in an authentic way, the Collections team refurbished a 1960s Zenith TV, similar to the one the Roths owned. The commercial, along with others from Coca Cola and Rice-A-Roni and Ozzie and Harriet clips, show how the Roths lived in a moment in time straddling the relatively conservative early 1960s and the liberating Summer of Love.
From start to finish, Filoli has visitors in mind when we dream up new exhibitions. We constantly ask – what stories of Filoli’s past will you find relevant to your present? This question led us to ask visitors to be part of our village and contribute to exhibits. In the display in the House about movies, we ask guests to share what movies inspire them, and are sharing some of the responses here. We hope you’ll contribute and experience the exhibit, but if you can’t make it to Filoli, stay tuned into Instagram where we feature the House exhibit weekly.