Dr Cynthia Chin Kirk (Dr. Cynthia E. Chin/Cynthia McGinnis Riddle Chin) 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 explores dress, textiles, and art, 1600-1830 and how collections and museum acquisitions strategies shaped understandings of early America. She is also a 2023-2024 residential Winterthur Fellow.
As a maker and advocate of replication-as-research, she incorporates embodied methods of knowledge in her academic practice, focusing on eighteenth-century women's dress in North America, Britain, France -– and Scottish kilts and kilt-making. She is currently replicating a gown owned by Martha Washington that was mended and cared for by seamstresses enslaved at Mount Vernon.
Cynthia was a 2020-21 Research Fellow at the Washington Library in Mount Vernon, Virginia, and earned her doctorate in early American material culture from Georgetown University in 2020. She holds an M.A. in poetry from The Johns Hopkins University and her writing has been published in literary journals.
Together with Philippe Halbert (PhD, Yale University), she co-founded and leads Materializing Race, 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.
Header: hand-sewn eighteenth century silk gown reproduction by Cynthia