As part of the Alabama Bicentennial Celebration and the year of Sharing our Stories, the Guntersville Museum will host Frances Robb from the Alabama Humanities Foundation’s Road Scholar speaker’s bureau on Sunday, September 8, at 1 p.m.

A social, cultural and photograph historian, Frances Robb will present an overview on the intriguing subject: How did Alabamians use their spare time in bygone days, and how did these activities (and time to pursue them) change? Between 1890 and 1950, Alabama saw profound cultural change.

By 1890, as the work week shortened for office and factory workers, the idea that the “good life” included time for hobbies, leisure and recreation emerged across America.

This presentation explores traditional spare-time activities between 1890 and 1950 and introduces emerging leisure activities. The ideal of an 8-hour, 5-day week entered the national consciousness—and with it, the possibility of leisure at the end of the workday and on weekends.

Alabamians visited with friends and family; played games; relaxed; and read books, newspapers and magazines. They took up hobbies like needlecraft and snapshooting. They gardened. They hunted and fished for sport, did charity and church work, joined clubs and put on plays.

New activities emerged, including amateur sports, going to the movies, recreational shopping and window-shopping. As more people owned cars and trucks, recreational driving became significant, with other activities, like camping, which let Alabamians enjoy experiences of nature.

Frances Robb is a museum consultant and photograph historian who works on research and exhibition projects across the state. For the past 20 years, she has served as exhibition curator and humanities adviser to many museums and institutions. Robb has presented scores of public programs on historic and family photographs, and on Alabama’s people and lifeways.

She taught humanities and art history at Texas Christian University, the University of North Texas and at the University of the South, Sewanee. She holds a master’s degree in English literature from the University of North Carolina and a master’s degree in art history from Yale University.

She recently completed a book on the history of photography in Alabama, 1839-1941, and a checklist of Alabama photographers–both are now under review by the University of Alabama Press.

The Guntersville Museum is located at 1215 Rayburn Avenue and open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. 

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