Asheville, NC (AP) – If you’ve ever wondered what it would have been like to be a guest of George and Edith Vanderbilt during their years living on the Biltmore Estate at the turn of the 20th century, your chance is coming soon.
Beginning Feb. 8, Biltmore House will become the scene of “a festive celebration hosted by the Vanderbilts,’’ and the estate phrases it, in a new exhibition called “A Vanderbilt House Party: Guests, Grandeur & Galas.’’
The exhibition, which includes displays of meticulously recreated period clothing, follows on the heels of Biltmore’s costume exhibits in the past several years, features outfits from TV’s “Downton Abbey’’ and the movie “Titanic,’’ as well as from various films and TV productions based on books in the Biltmore library or featuring wedding scenes.
While all those exhibits had direct ties to the Vanderbilts – who, for example, had booked passage on the Titanic – the new show will focus directly on the family and how they lived at Biltmore.
For many years, Biltmore’s curators have researched what it was like when the Vanderbilts entertained guests in Asheville. Using information gleaned from letters, photographs and documents in the Vanderbilt archives, the curatorial team has created an experience that “will put today’s visitors into the action of the time when George and Edith Vanderbilt extended their boundless hospitality to family and friends,’’ the estate said. The exhibit will run through May 27.
Clothing vignettes will be on display in Biltmore House, paired with storytelling in a new audio-guided tour offered free with all online ticket purchases. The audio tour uses “innovative 360-degree sound techniques (that) will draw listeners into the preparations for a celebration in Biltmore House,’’ the estate said.
The narration is based on first-person accounts from those who lived and worked in Biltmore House, and their guests, and features a butler recounting the leisurely days and glamorous evenings the Vanderbilts’ guests enjoyed.
The new clothing vignettes are based on the Vanderbilts’ actual wardrobes and were specially reproduced for this exhibition. Oscar-winning costume designer John Bright created the items with inspiration from archival photographs and portraits in Biltmore’s collection.
Biltmore partnered with Bright and his London-based company Cosprop for its “Dressing Downton’’ exhibition, featuring Bright’s creations for the wildly popular series “Downton Abbey.’’
Tasked with bringing vivid color to scenes previously only seen in century-old black-and-white photos, Bright worked with the estate’s curators to research fashion magazines of the era and studied the photography in great detail.
Tours of “A Vanderbilt House Party’’ are included in Biltmore daytime admission; the premium audio-guided exhibition tour is free with online ticket purchases or can be purchased onsite for an additional fee.