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Erin Chin


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biography //

Dr Cynthia E. Chin (Cynthia McGinnis Riddle Chin/Cynthia Chin Kirk) is an art and material culture historian of #VastEarlyAmerica and Britain in the eighteenth century, specializing in dress, textiles, identity, and collecting.

As a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow, Cynthia examines collections of dress, textiles, and art 1600-1830 to understand how private collections, individual collectors, and museum acquisitions strategies shaped notions of  "early America". She explored these questions as a 2023-2024 Winterthur Fellow.

As an advocate of replication as a valid research approach, she incorporates embodied methods of knowledge in her academic practice, focusing on early American women's dress in British North America -– and Scottish kilts and kilt-making. In late spring 2024, she recreated a gown owned by Martha Washington that was mended and cared for by seamstresses enslaved at Mount Vernon. The gown is on view in "New Nation, Many Hands" at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut from 2 July 2024 - 8 November 2024. A press release is available for institutions, museum professionals, and scholars. To request one, please use the contact form.


Formerly on staff at George Washington's Mount Vernon/The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, Cynthia was also a 2020-21 Research Fellow at the Washington Presidential Library. She earned her doctorate in early American material culture from Georgetown University in 2020 and holds an M.A. in poetry from The Johns Hopkins University. Her writing has been published in literary journals.


Adding a background of business to her academic and museum experience, Cynthia served industry and public sector clients as a strategy & analytics senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLC and independently for PwC.


When she's not researching, writing, or training in multiple forms of dance, you can find her building her community-focused small business and caring for her 1730s house with her husband.

Header: hand-sewn reproduction by Cynthia based on Etienne Claude Voysard after Claude-Louis Desrais, Gallerie des modes et costumes français, 13e Cahier des Costumes Français, 7e Suite d'Habillemens à la mode. N77. 1778. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection, 44.1345.  



Replication of Martha Washington's purple silk gown, 2024. Original in the collection of the New Hampshire Historical Society.

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publications //

Winterthur Portfolio
History: The Journal of the Historical Society
Business History Review (Harvard Business School)
History (Blog of the Journal of the Historical Association)
The Junto

Materializing Race //

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Cynthia co-founded and leads Materializing Race with Philippe Halbert (PhD, Yale University), a virtual community committed to fostering nuanced interpretations and meaningful dialogue on historical constructions of race and their legacies. Through a series of virtual “un-conferences," scholarship on the intersections of identity and material culture in #VastEarlyAmerica are discussed and shared. Materializing Race has been generously supported by the Society of Winterthur Fellows and the University of Glasgow. Follow Materializing Race on on Instagram: materializingrace, and on Twitter: @material_race.  

contact //

get in touch

(Dr Chin)

Professional or academic inquiries only, please.

Thanks for reaching out, I'll be in touch soon!

(c) cynthia e. chin, 2024, all rights reserved.

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