Downton Abbey Comes to Manhattan

Downton Abbey Comes to Manhattan

The Crawley family with some of their staff (Lois Anzelowitz Levine)

It may seem like an odd idea, turning a former television show into a traveling museum that takes up three floors of a building in Midtown Manhattan, but once you visit “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition,” you will see how well the notion works. Or maybe because “Downton Abbey,” the British Masterpiece Classic which debuted in America on PBS in 2011, did such a spectacular job of drawing audiences into the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in turn-of-the-century Yorkshire, England, that a museum on the show seemed the next organic step. 

The formal dinner table at Downton Abbey (Lois Anzelowitz Levine)

Although the characters and storylines were fictional, the show often made reference to actual events (the premiere episode, for example, revolves around the sinking of the Titanic). And so, the backdrop of the changing times historically and culturally (World War I; the invention of the telephone; rising hemlines, etc.) is engrossing to anyone interested in that particular period in American and British history (Lady Crawley, the lady of the house, was raised in New York City, and American politics and events are also referred to throughout the series).

Various riding outfits for Downton Abbey residents and their guests (Lois Anzelowitz Levine)

Interspersed throughout the dazzling gowns, day dresses, wedding gowns and gentleman’s suits, all worthy in their gloss and intricacy of a costume institute, are historic details from those particular seasons of the show (The Balkan Wars and World War l; the Suffragette Movement; the Spanish Influenza, and various technological inventions such as the radio, the phonograph and the telephone). In addition, furniture, artwork, carpets and even flatware from the actual sets, replicating exact scenes from episodes, make the exhibit mesmerizing to a Downton-phile.  Revisiting the scenes, the costumes and the characters made me feel grateful that I have my Amazon Prime subscription active to watch the show over and over again.

 

So if you are a fan—or even if you are not, but love learning about the post-Edwardian age and this dramatic period, the last true era of British aristocracy—make it your business to visit “Downton Abbey: The Exhibition.” On view through April 2nd.

 

>> Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, 218 W. 57th St., 866.811.4111

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