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Hats and Headdresses: Adornment for the Head from Around the World

May 31, 2003–August 31, 2003

A traveling exhibition featuring nearly 100 hats from around the world, Hats and Headdresses: Adornment of the Head from Around the World is a tribute to the diversity of the world’s cultures and represent more than 60 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North and South America, and many more cultures, tribes and ethnic groups.

From the simple wool beret to an elaborate headdress decorated with beads, bones, and baubles, what is worn atop the head tells a great deal about the person wearing it. Worn not only for protection or decoration, hats serve what may be an even more important purpose by reinforcing cultural ties. In doing this, they provide us a sense of who we are and show others how we see ourselves.

Hats and headdresses can be full of meaning. They simultaneously announce our place in society and make statements about our individuality. A hat can identify which country a person comes from and to what cultural group he belongs. It might indicate how he makes his living or how he spends his free time. Hats can reveal peoples’ religious affiliations and confirm their faith in God or their belief in animistic spirits. They may be worn to scare off enemies and demons or to attract a mate. The shape, design, and decoration of the headwear may also convey one’s state of life as well as social position, power, and wealth.

They profusion of shapes and decorative materials that are used to create hats makes them works of art in their own right. The design of a hat is constrained only by one’s imagination and available materials. Whether elegant in their simplicity or wildly ostentatious, hats have the ability to transform the wearer.

With their endless variations, hats and headdresses are a tribute to the diversity of the world’s cultures. Knowledge of headgear can instill an awareness and appreciation of our differences. At the same time, by understanding the purpose for which they are worn, hats may act as a bridge, reinforcing attitudes and values that are shared by people around the globe.


The exhibit is organized by The Stacey Miller Collection, and developed by Smith Kramer Traveling Exhibitions.

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