Rare Historical Artisan Receives Research Fellowship

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation announces the winner of its international experimental archeology research fellowship 2023: Baltimore, Maryland-based historical artisan Lauren Muney of “Silhouettes By Hand” will be researching independent traveling artists and their activities in the 18th century, basing her research on the own beloved portrait form: silhouette portraits.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation–EXARC Fellowship advances the investigation and interpretation of archaeological and experimental archaeological heritage by supporting research and scholarship through a partnership between EXARC, the international organization of Archaeological Open-Air Museums (AOAM) and Experimental Archaeology, and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Silhouettes have been beloved for hundreds of years, and are iconic to American history - especially the early American history. Silhouettes were the portraits of the common people before the invention of photography; silhouette artists traveled the countryside, by foot, horseback, cart, in early America. Many of these artists worked “freehand” - creating silhouettes using only scissors and paper.

Lauren Muney uses this same method; she looks at her sitter, and uses only scissors to create a remarkable likeness - without using shadows or using any machinery - in the same way that traditional silhouettes artists have been producing for hundreds of years. However, there is no magic: Lauren Muney is a skilled artisan who has created thousands of silhouettes in this same freehand-scissored method, using only the scissors to “draw” the silhouette. Ms. Muney is self-taught in her silhouette skills.

Ms. Muney, a designer, producer, and consultant, is one of only a handful of freehand-scissoring silhouette artists working in the world. Lauren Muney specializes in helping visitors experience the past by participating in their own historical portrait. Ms. Muney has been featured in regional, national and international events, fairs, and museums, including George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Museum, Smithsonian Institution, The Henry Ford, and many other international museums, events, and even public art. She is a ten-time Master Traditional Artist, listed in the Directory of Traditional American Crafts, and was been one of the silhouette artists interviewed in the multi-award-winning British documentary “Silhouette Secrets”. Lauren has also been an international guest artisan at the Lost Trades Fair in Victoria, Australia for four years. She is active supporting and producing skills learning opportunities in the international organization the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM). She is also a member of EXARC and the Association of the International Museums of Agriculture (AIMA).

As an independent research fellow at Colonial Williamsburg, Ms. Muney will be granted special access to the Foundation’s collection of artifacts and research materials, work directly with the Historic Trades department to connect her research to the many trades which would have assisted an itinerant entrepreneur, and will have the opportunity to experiment with fabricating  items used by her traditional artist trade. She will also interpret her silhouette trade directly with guests during her residency. For more information on Lauren Muney’s work, including seeing galleries of silhouettes and an overview of the history of silhouettes, please visit