Top Drawer: 150 Years of Bittners

It’s been a while since we’ve posted here, which says plenty about how busy the fall semester has been. Fortunately, a new exhibit at the Frazier History Museum is reason enough to break the drought. Curated by Critical and Curatorial Studies M.A. candidate Wesley Spencer, it explores the history of Bittners, a Louisville-based design firm. For more information, read on.

“Top Drawer: 150 Years of Bittners”

A new exhibit at the Fazier History Museum explores craftsmanship and design through the work of Bittner’s, a Louisville design firm. “Top Drawer: 150 Years of Bittners,” opens November 17 and runs through January 1.

The 4,000 square foot exhibition includes exquisite American, English and Continental furniture inspired by great monarchs and makers, as well as the story of how the political, cultural and social forces of these periods have inspired the aesthetic of our homes.

“Top Drawer” features furniture from the Empire, Regency, Biedermeier and Victorian periods and a variety of makers and styles– including Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton and even pieces as recent as Mid-Century Modern. The exhibition aims to explain the national significance of Bittners, a Louisville-based design firm, while giving visitors an understanding of how interior design is affected by the larger historical and societal context in which it is created.

The exhibition details the Bittners timeline, which begins in 1854 when German immigrant Gustav Bittner founded a custom cabinet shop. Since then, Bittners has become not only a Louisville tradition, but nationally-renowned as well. “Top Drawer” seeks to engender an appreciation of the firm that still handcrafts furniture with the same techniques and materials that were used 300 years ago.

Museum guests will have the opportunity to examine fine antiques from around the world, as well as master-crafted pieces produced by the Bittners custom shop, including beds, desks, secretaries, chairs, sideboards, high boys and tables. Visitors may examine pieces on loan from the private collections of many notable Louisvillians, including the late Owsley Brown Frazier, Laura Frazier, Catherine Joy, Jonathan and Tracy Blue, Milton Cooper and Mary Nash, as well as from Cave Hill Cemetery.

“Top Drawer” is included in regular museum admission, which is $10.50 for adults (15-59), $9.50 for military, $8.50 for seniors, $6 for children (5-14) and free for children 4 and under. For an additional fee, guests may also see “Diana: A Celebration,” a 7,500 square feet, Museum operating hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours on Wednesday until 8 p.m. For more information, visit

The Frazier History Museum, located on Louisville’s “Museum Row,” has the distinction of being the only place in the world outside Great Britain to permanently house and display Royal Armouries artifacts. This world-class museum provides a journey through more than 1,000 years of world and American history with ever-changing and interactive exhibits, daily performances by costumed interpreters and engaging special events and programs.


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