The Oprah Exhibition

Dr. Lori Verderame

Art & Antiques by Dr. Lori

by Dr. Lori Verderame

“Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture” exhibition opens at the National Museum of African American History and Culture of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC on June 8, 2018 and the exhibition will be on view through June 2019.

The exhibition explores the era that shaped Oprah Winfrey’s life and early career in television. The exhibition continues to highlight the impact of her long running television talk show which dominated daytime television for 25 years. Also, the exhibition and its interpretation will show how Winfrey and her work in broadcast journalism has influenced American popular culture. The exhibition will feature original artifacts from the Harpo Studios in Chicago, IL and from the Smithsonian collections such as photographs, video clips, other vintage materials.  The exhibition was co-curated by Rhea Combs and Kathleen Kendrick.

Artifacts have been part of Oprah’s allure for some time and the television powerhouse is no stranger to art, antiques, and collectibles. At a recent auction of her personal stuff, Oprah sold off many items that no longer fit the way she wants to live. Like many of my appraisal clients, Oprah found as she prepared to sell her objects that the objects that she had bought and lived with spark emotions, carry memories, and are difficult to part with. An important tip that I share with my clients when I consult with them and conduct in-home appraisal sessions or video chat appraisals nationwide is to select 10 precious objects that you just will not give up. After that, prioritize objects that you can sell by getting input from family members. Did you know that Oprah loves dolls? She noted in an interview that she was not allowed to have dolls growing up, so she collected antique and vintage dolls. Oprah’s rare dark-skinned Jumeau doll from the 1800s was an object that she put a high priority on and was not willing to sell. You may have items like this in your collection too.

Oprah sold off a massive 19th-century French crystal chandelier attributed to Baccarat, an original canvas banner for her film, The Color Purple, a brass bed designed especially for napping, comfy sofas from her movie screening room, a set of library steps, armoires in various woods and styles, chairs from her office at Harpo studios dating to circa 1996, Staffordshire lions, and the list goes on. Oprah liked fine French antiques such as a French Empire period chaise with melon-shaped feet and a set of six 18th Century Louis XVI style armchairs with hand-embroidered upholstery. The auction raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to further the education of all the graduates of Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

The exhibition at the Smithsonian will certainly attract many visitors and give patrons a look at how a talk show host with a vision can have a major impact on American culture and the future of education around the globe.

Dr. Lori Verderame is the author and award-winning TV personality who appears on History channel’s #1 hit TV show, The Curse of Oak Island. With a Ph.D. from Penn State University and experience appraising 20,000 antiques every year, Dr. Lori presents antique appraisal events to worldwide audiences and services to clients. Visit or call (888) 431-1010.