The Esse Purse Museum, a pocket book treasure

IMG_2819When I was a girl, my grandma always called her purse a pocket book.  She didn’t have a lot of jingle in her purse, but like today, it carried those necessary things she needed.  What is so wonderful about the Esse Purse Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas is that the museum follows the evolution of the 20th century American woman through the bags she carried along with the contents she carried in them.

The Esse Purse Museum is one of only three purse museums in the world and the only brick and mortar purse museum in the US.  Devin Hancock the Program & Collections Developement person at the museum shared a tour of the museum and the wonderful store.  “We have a unique shop with things you won’t find,” Devin said.

This small, but wonderful museum has been covered in Southern Living, The Huffinton Post, U.S. Airways, Prime Living, National Georgaphis, USA Today, Garden Gun and Southern Traveler.  For any woman, this is a museum that will take you back.

It was fun looking through the shop with so many eclectic and cool purses. Surprisingly to me, Keith, who also toured the museum found our daughter Allie who is a purse enthusiast a billfold for Christmas.

The story behind the museum is quite interesting.  Devin said, “Anita Davis, is an Arkansas native and this is her personal collection. This began as a traveling exhibit about “A Century of Women and Handbags”. The exhibit traveled across the country at small history museums, thenin 2013 when it wound down, we opened the Esse in the summer of 2013.”

Devin added that along with purse and purse contents, they also include them;Larry exhibits.  The current exhibit was on women’s shoes titled, “A Walk in Her Shoes” which traces the stopes of the American woman over the course of 100 years.  The exhibit will be on display until January 17, 2017.  The display is on loan from the fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada and includes an extensive selection from the Esse museum as well.  The previous the exhibit had been “Changing Tides:  100 Years of Iconic Swimwear”.

The purses cover over ten decades.from 1900 to 1999.  On their website they explain best that this is not just a fashion museum, but a story of how women have changed over the years.  “More than just a fashion history, this ongoing exhibit showcases a compellingly intimate look at the evolution of the 20th-century American woman – decade by decade – through her handbags and the items she carried with her everyday.  What does your handbag and its contents say about you?”

I had great fun pouring  over the shoes and the purses.  Traveling back through the decades when I got to the 70’s and my teen years it was interesting remembering a different fashion and a different time.  They are right, the contents we carry say a lot about us.

Whether you call it a purse, a hand bag or like Grandma Pearcy a pocket book, you can learn all about women and how they have changed over the years at the amazing Esse Purse Museum.  Log onto for details.

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  1. Melissa Schwartz

    This is so cool! Plus — my grandma calls her’s a pocketbook too! 🙂