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miss frances lee.jpeg


Art & Material Culture Historian

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BIO & research

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.

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.


She 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 2019.

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.


Follow Materializing Race on on Instagram: materializingrace, and on Twitter: @material_race.                                              

Portrait of Miss Frances Lee, 1769

Francis Cotes (English, 1726-1770), Milwaukee Art Museum

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vogel


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