Sunday, October 17, 2021

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

Recently at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina—the largest private residence ever built in America and very castle-like—Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is now on display in Atlanta, specifically at Perimeter Pointe in Sandy Springs, but only through January 2022.

If you're a fan of the award-winning, highly-acclaimed television show, Downton Abbey, and/or the blockbuster movie, this is an exhibition not to be missed. There is much more here than I had expected and it's all wholly delightful!

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

You know you're at the right place because there's a huge "Downton Abbey: The Exhibition" sign on the building. It's the same place where "Friends: The Experience" was recently.

I arrived a few minutes before my friends and waited just inside because of the day's blistering wind (where did that come from?!). While there I got to chat with the very friendly welcoming host who was enthusiastic about the exhibition and quite thorough in his delivery of the welcome speak. 

Part of what he or she will tell you is where to have your tickets scanned and that there's a table inside where you can purchase soft drinks, beer, wine, and bubbles! There's also a photo-op, which I recommend doing. There's no obligation to purchase the photo and you get to choose from four backgrounds (in the gift shop at the end). One friend had a beer, another had a glass of wine, and I had bubbles...it's Downton Abbey after all!

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

The exhibition is presented in eight (8) different rooms, some of which include the Mrs. Patmore's Kitchen, the Crawleys' Dining Room, the Library, and Mr. Carson's (the butler) Pantry. Noted in the series, in that time all maids and cooks were "Mrs." whether or not they were married.

This show goes far beyond satisfying a lover of period films. History buffs too will love it for its insights into the Industrial, Edwardian, and Post-War eras. While the families and story in the series are fictional, the creator of Downton Abbey insisted that as much as possible be historically correct.

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

While the more-than-50 costumes are a significant draw, the Kitchen is a fan-favorite, as well. It's one of the backgrounds you can choose for your keepsake photo, too—the one we chose. As big a foodie as I am, of course I love this room! 

We noticed that there are no chairs at the heads of the table. Evidently, during that time the heads of the household sat in the middle chairs on the long sides of the table with the highest-ranking guests next to them.

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

The first gallery in the Exhibition features highlights of many characters in th show along with props including clothing, jewelry, books, documents, letters, and so much more! Hopefully most of the display drawers will be pulled out, but be sure to look for those that are not so that you don't miss something you wish you'd have seen. 

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

There is more than 40 minutes of video throughout the Exhibition, including a welcome video and a farewell video, all featuring cast members from Downton Abbey. One of my favorites is motion-activated and features Mr. Carson, toward the end of the Exhibition.

The Library, one of the eight rooms in the Exposition, is made up of three walls of animated video with clips from the series. This immersive experience is a personal favorite and was enthusiastically discussed in our lunch conversation.

Speaking of video, after our Exhibition visit, we lunched at nearby Battle and Brew, a video gaming bar and restaurant, and a total H.G. Wells-ish pivot from where we'd just been. The service, food, and atmosphere here are fantastic! I'm a total geek who loves history and all-things-British (there's a giant TARDIS at the restaurant!), so this was a stellar day for me!

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

The series, which begins in 1912, bravely addressed homosexuality (illegal and punishable by death in most of the UK until 1967), Women's Rights (approximately two-thirds of Britain's women were legally able to vote by 1918), and racial prejudice. Some examples of this are highlighted in the first gallery of the exhibition.

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

A personal and fan favorite character in the series is Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham portrayed by phenomenal actress Dame Maggie Smith. At social gatherings and or around the dining table, if Downton Abbey is mentioned there's always a Dowager Countess one-liner, or several, in the conversation.

One scene that makes me laugh out loud every time is when she's sitting in a swivel chair. (You'll know what I mean if you've seen it.) Turns out she's quite a good sailor. (Moment #6 in this video) Here are a few more Dowager Countess quotes for your entertainment...

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

I imagine every fashion fan will be delighted by the costumes, perhaps even more so by the vast number of jewelry and accessory props...there are so many! I've been a fan of the Roaring Twenties since I was a kid, so the ones from that era are particularly fascinating. 

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

While there is considerably more variation in the women's costumes, jewelry, and accessories, the Exhibition is brilliant at showcasing more than a few of the men's costumes and accessories. 

As I mentioned, there is a lot more here than what I expected. It's an order of magnitude greater than the Star Wars costumes exhibition I saw in St. Petersburg a few years ago. I think this exhibition does more of a deep dive, which absolutely fascinates. 

Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Sandy Springs, GA | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
Downton Abbey - The Exhibition | Photo by Travis Swann Taylor

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is elegant, exquisite, and exciting! It's been here for a while and will go away in January 2022, so you don't have the passing of another era to see it. If you've never seen the show, it's currently on Netflix. Whether you binge before you go or go just for the experience, I predict that you'll have a roaring good time!


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