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UM Museum Unveils 2019 Keepsake Ornament

The University of Mississippi Museum has unveiled its 19th annual holiday keepsake ornament, which features a longstanding museum display and visitor favorite, the Pulgas Vestidas, or “dressed fleas.”

The University of Mississippi Museum’s new holiday keepsake ornament features a longstanding museum display and visitor favorite, the Pulgas Vestidas, or ‘dressed fleas.’ Submitted photo
Each year, UM Museum and Historic Houses alternates between subjects in the permanent collection, on the Ole Miss campus and around the city of Oxford. Generally, museum staff are polled in early spring, but this year, UM employees participated in a public polling during Staff Appreciation Week in May.

“The Pulgas Vestidas have been on constant display since their addition to the original 1939 Mary Buie Museum, cementing them as the most-beloved staple of our collection,” said Kate Wallace, the museum’s membership, events and communications coordinator. “For many alumni who visited the museum in our early history, the dressed fleas are their fondest memory.”

The dressed fleas are from the Mary Buie Museum Collection, which included the art, personal items, souvenirs and oddities of sisters Mary Buie and Kate Skipwith. In 1974, the city deeded the Mary Buie Museum to the university. Following a major addition, known as the Kate Skipwith Teaching Museums, the UM Museum reopened, combining the original Mary Buie Museum Collection with various campus collections, including the Millington Barnard Collection of Scientific Instruments and the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

Pulgas Vestidas was a Mexican folk tradition in which fleas were clothed and arranged in handmade dioramas to resemble tiny people. Although the tradition can be traced back to 18th century Mexico, its original purpose is unclear.

A possible explanation is that the tiny displays were given as gifts to wedding couples, the most popular subject. In the late 19th century, Mexican women began to sell these to tourists as collectible oddities.

The Pulgas Vestidas commemorative ornament is available for $25 in the museum store. Ornaments can be purchased in the store or by phone at 662-915-7073. Shipping within the continental U.S. is $7, and all shipped orders must be placed by Dec. 10 if needed by the holiday. All sales are final.

“Sales of the annual ornament provide much-needed support for the collection and programming we offer throughout the year,” Wallace said. “As always, we are blown away and appreciative of the support we receive from the Rebel faithful.”

Collectible ornaments still available from previous years include the Old Skipwith House, Brandt Memory House, Ventress Hall, the Lafayette County Courthouse, Oxford City Hall, the Ole Miss Women’s Basketball Jersey, the Theora Hamblett House, Theora Hamblett’s “Christmas Trees,” Oxford’s Double Decker Bus, the Herakles Neck Amphora and the Barlow’s Planetarium. Previous years’ ornaments are $20 each.

Museum members and Friends of the Museum get a 10 percent discount on all merchandise in the store. To become a member, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu/join-the-museum or stop by the museum.

The UM Museum is at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Holiday hours for the museum store are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.

Museum gallery visiting hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. To learn more about upcoming events, exhibits or how to support the museum, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7073.

By Edwin B. Smith

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