Yesterday I went with a group of my friends to celebrate our friend Heather’s birthday at Winterthur Museum outside of Wilmington, Delaware. They currently have an exhibit of costumes from Downton Abbey. The $20 gets you timed access to the Downton Abbey exhibit plus access to their permanent galleries and a tour of the house, which lasts about an hour. Winterthur itself is a large country estate dating from the 1800s that was previously owned by the duPont family (you know of the Du Pont company). It was made into a museum in the 1950s after Henry Francis duPont donated to create the museum after he built himself a (40 room!) retirement home on the property next door to it.
This was my second time at the museum. There was an exhibit of costumes from Oscar winning films the last time I was there, so I don’t know if costume exhibits are something they do frequently or if it just happened that was what was there on the two times I was there. There are also some lovely gardens at Winterthur, though yesterday’s pouring rain kept us from getting to enjoy them. At least not much is in bloom at the moment, so it didn’t feel like we were missing out on too much.
The Downton exhibit was really well done. They actually set it up as a comparison between Downton and Winterthur and the differences and similarities in how they operated as English and American estates during the same time period. The costumes were displayed with photos of the scenes where they were worn, sometimes looping video of the scenes they were worn in or lines from the script written on the wall, and information about the costume design or who would have worn a particular outfit and why. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey it is probably something you would really enjoy. The exhibit runs through the end of 2014, so you have plenty of time to get up there and see it if you are interested.
They were also having a Downton Abbey themed tea, which we did. I would definitely say it was not worth the $30, so if you’re going up I would skip it. I’ve done high tea any number of times and this was not nearly as nice. First, it was set up as a buffet instead of you being served your food on pretty little tiered trays, which definitely makes it feel less nice. Second and even worse was the tea itself. All other teas I have been to have involved a large selection of tea choices, which are then served as loose tea. This tea involved literally a pile of tea bags on the table with only about 4 flavors and none of them very exciting. I’m not even sure why they bothered to try and brand the tea as a Downton Abbey tea if they weren’t going to follow through on it. The first item listed on their menu was Mrs. Patmore’s salmon dill sandwiches or something like that, but it was the only thing on the menu that seemed even remotely related. If they were going to give up after the first item, I’m not sure why they bothered. The whole thing was pretty disappointed and definitely not worth the price. Save yourself the money and spend it on a real high teas somewhere else.
After getting back to Baltimore most people had to head home, but a handful of us stuck around and I feel like continued with the theme of the day by playing Clue. I mean a board game set in a large mansion, what could be a more fitting end to the day? In case you were wondering Dr. White (we renamed her because we decided it’s wrong that none of the female characters have professional titles) did it with the candlestick in the kitchen.