Cultural Exhibition

Historic House

Maymont Foundation

Richmond, Virginia

In Service & Beyond: Domestic Work and Life in a Gilded Age Mansion

The National Register of Historic Places recognizes Maymont as a significant example of an American country estate of the Gilded Age. The opulent home of Richmond‐born financier James Dooley and his wife, Sallie, is surrounded today by 100 acres of parkland, elaborate gardens, an arboretum, and picturesque outbuildings.

When you enter Maymont Mansion’s upper floors, you step into the luxurious world of James and Sallie May Dooley. But at the same time, many men and women experienced Maymont as a workplace. At any given moment, the Dooleys employed seven to ten domestic employees — nearly all African‐American — to maintain the elegance and order of their home. Maymont Mansion witnessed a dynamic interplay between employer and employee, upper‐class and working‐class individuals, white and black, old and young. This relationship was played out against a background of rapidly changing domestic technology. It was also set in the turbulent social and political landscape of a strictly segregated South. Restoration of Maymont's kitchen, wine cellar, laundry, butler's bedroom, maids' bedroom, butler's pantry, and other service areas was completed in May 2005. Through eight period rooms and informational panels, visitors can now meet specific employees and consider their lives in and outside the workplace. They can also examine an era of dramatically changing household technology and learn the historical context of domestic service in Gilded Age Richmond, the South, and the United States. 

1717 was selected to provide exhibit design services for In Service and Beyond: Domestic Work and Life in a Gilded Age Mansion, a 2,500 SF self‐guided permanent installation. The restoration and interpretive exhibit is the result of a decade‐long research and planning project involving historians, restoration specialists and museum professionals. Richly‐illustrated interpretive panels and graphic rails, framed in craftsman‐style oak fixtures, blend effortlessly with the period furnishings. Visitors enjoy a small video theater as well as several hand‐held audio programs integrated into the barrier rails. 1717 also designed the 14‐panel traveling version of the exhibit, From Morning to Night: Domestic Service in the Gilded Age South, and the promotional publications for both exhibits.

Prior to designing the In Service and Beyond, 1717 was commissioned to design site signage and pedestrian orientation kiosks for the park.