“Just as the essence of a woman is not her appearance, size, shape or hair color, the essence of a woman’s handbag is not its style, price, designer logo or color. The essence of both are the things they carry, literal and ethereal-the makeup and the memories, the driver’s license and the driving desires, the hairbrush and the hope, the wallet and the wishes, the lotion and the love.”- Esse Purse Museum
Did you know Little Rock is home to the only purse museum in the nation? In fact, the only other purse museums in the world are in Amsterdam and Seoul. The Esse Purse Museum opened this summer and showcases ‘the evolution of the 20th-century American woman-decade by decade-through the bags she carried and the contents within.’ The purses are arranged by decade (1900-1999) in a beautiful and modern space.
Each case showcases not only purses but contents of what was inside them so visitors can get a look into what was happening in the lives of women in each era. Esse ( which means “to be” in Latin), grew out of a traveling exhibit selected from owner Anita Davis’( who also is founder of the Bernice Garden) expansive and impressive personal collection of bags and is located in the SoMa ( Southside Main Stree) neighborhood of Little Rock. One of my favorite displays in the museum is an installation where purses are used in place of heads on mannequins. A pretty creative vision! If you want to check out the purses for yourself sometime, the museum is at 1510 South Main Street.
Museum hours are 11-4 Tuesday through Sunday and admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students (6-18), seniors (60 and up) and military. Children 5 and younger are free. They also give group rates and special tours. Their phone number is 501-916-9022.