Examining Gendered Glass Bottles

Perfume bottle from Admin/Gunson Assemblage
Perfume bottle from Admin/Gunson Assemblage

My project looks into examining gendered artifacts, and there isn’t much pertinent material readily available on the subject. Specifically, I am looking into glass objects, such as the perfume bottles, found at the Admin/Gunson assemblage to gain more insight into the historical women of MSU. The research process thus far has included searching through a lot of admittedly interesting but ultimately unhelpful information hoping to find a gem. Sadly, finding good information is much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Despite the wealth of information online, I so far have only found a few sites or scholarly articles that could help me. Books about perfume are surprisingly hard to come by. This makes it easy to feel discouraged, but I came to the realization that I may be too narrow in what I am looking for. I found a book that looks into gender and culture of the twentieth century, Gender and Consumption, which I hope will lead to more research avenues. In hindsight, I should have been looking into material such as this much sooner than I did, but I boxed myself into looking at very specific artifact types and so only found repetitive and irrelevant information for my project.

Vintage Perfume Ad 1920s - Source
Vintage Perfume Ad 1920s – Source

I did find a few interesting websites. I found many bottle-collecting websites that have a good number of perfume and scent bottles (yes, there is a difference between the two!) along with some information about them. These sites will become more useful as we sort through the artifacts and find all of the perfume bottles. I found a couple of research articles on gendered artifacts found in other parts and times of the United States, some on whether artifacts can have gender and even one paper detailing the history of a glass company.

Besides the fact that I have been spending a great deal of time not finding anything because I have been too locked into one way of thinking, I need to expand the scope of my research. We found a lot of interesting and decorated glass which needs to be looked into; a comparison with the Admin/Gunson site and others on campus would be helpful in discerning what may be unique to students and faculty or to men and women. Regardless of the quantity of my research, though, it has been a learning experience and has already begun developing the way I am tackling this project.

Author: Alissa Lyon

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