Alice Rawsthorn, Design Critic and Author.

Source: The Preservation Society of Newport County

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, a public health crisis can lead to inventiveness and innovation. Long before Zoom meetings and virtual concerts, creative minds have responded to widespread health threats such as tuberculosis, malaria and influenza with new ideas and practices in design. Everything from home décor to urban planning to fashion changed as a result.

This topic will be explored during “Creativity from Crisis: Design in Times of Need,” a series of 10 virtual lectures presented by the Newport Symposium and The Preservation Society of Newport County, beginning April 1. Two illustrated presentations will be given every Thursday throughout April, featuring speakers with a range of historical perspectives that parallel to our lives today, in Newport and around the world.

All lectures will be live and offered via Zoom Webinar. Registration is required. The fee for each lecture is $25; registration for the full 10-lecture series costs $150.

For more information and to register, go to The lecture topics and speakers are as follows:

• Thursday, April 1, 1 p.m. EDT – “A History of Design Emergencies,” with keynote speaker Alice Rawsthorn, Design Critic and Author.

• Thursday, April 1, 5:30 p.m. EDT – “Lazaretto: How One City Used an Unpopular Quarantine Based on Disputed Science to Accommodate Immigrants and Prevent Epidemics,” with David Barnes, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania.

• Thursday, April 8, 1 p.m. EDT – “Bodies that Work, Objects that Don’t: When Design, Disability, and Ableism Collide,” with Katherine Ott, Curator, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

• Thursday, April 8, 5:30 p.m. EDT – “The Material Culture of Gout and Physical Disability in Early America,” with Nicole Belolan, PhD, Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University-Camden.

• Thursday, April 15, 1 p.m. EDT – “When Art is Medicine: Ojibwe Women and the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition,” with Brenda J. Child, PhD, Northrop Professor and former Chair of the Departments of American Studies and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.

• Thursday, April 15, 5:30 p.m. EDT – “Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fashioning Tuberculosis in Early Victorian England,” with Carolyn Day, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Furman University.

• Thursday, April 22, 1 p.m. EDT – “Disease and Décor: How Epidemics Shaped the Look of the Victorian Middle-Class Bedroom,” with Sara J. Oshinsky, Independent Historian.

• Thursday, April 22, 5:30 p.m. EDT – “Sunlight, Space and Surfaces: Tracing the Development of the Healthy Home,” with Julie Collins, B.Arch, PhD, Research Fellow and Curator at the Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, Adelaide.

• Thursday, April 29, 1 p.m. EDT – “Just the Tonic: A Transatlantic Story of Sickness, Pleasure and the Gin & Tonic,” with Mark Nesbitt, Senior Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and curator of Kew’s Economic Botany Collection; and Kim Walker, PhD student at Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London.

• Thursday, April 29, 5:30 p.m. EDT – “The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape,” with Sara Jensen Carr, Assistant Professor of Architecture and program director for the Master of Design in Sustainable Urban Environments program at Northeastern University.

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area’s historic architecture, landscapes, decorative arts and social history. Its 11 historic properties – seven of them National Historic Landmarks – span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.

For more information, please visit