Free Fridays: Mad, Dangerous Love

By Andrew Andrews

Meredith Duncan introduces Asti Hustvedt in the Othmer Library as part of Brooklyn Historical Societys Free Fridays: Mad, Dangerous Love. The event also featured Masters of Social Gastronomy Jonathan Soma and Sarah Lohman.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been to either Masters of Social Gastronomy or Free Fridays at Brooklyn Historical Society, so when we found out the former would be presenting at the latter, we dubbed it the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. The pre-Valentine’s Day theme—Mad, Dangerous Love—promised a free tasting of chocolate brownies and special presentations beyond the usual program of live music.

Free Fridays begins at five, with happy hour provided by Brooklyn Brewery for a donation of only four bucks—try getting a deal like that at any other event in town! Tonight, BHS also extended their exhibits into the Othmer Library with special true crime and forbidden love items on display. In the grand hall, Tommy Stathes projected historic cartoons of lost and avenged love as a mixed crowd (albeit heavy on small groups of young women) meandered in and out.

Truth be told, we didn’t actually arrive until nearly seven, and to our dismay, seemed to miss out on the brownies. We did, however, manage to snag two of the last seats in the library in time for Asti Hustvedt’s reading Hysterically in Love: The Battle Between Medicine and Religion in a 19th Century Parisian Hysteria Ward, which she accompanied with slides of a celebrity patient in the early days when mental health started to consider hysteria a neurological disease instead of demonic possession.

After the Q&A, we stopped by the classroom to check out the evening’s arts & crafts project—designing a cupid’s arrow—before making our way to the grand hall for the MSG presentations: Jonathan Soma, with a funny look at the science of aphrodisiacs, and Sarah Lohman’s deck about the history of female poisoners. The key takeaway from Soma’s talk is that bremelanotide—a failed attempt at a self-tanning agent—seems to be the world’s first and only true love potion, and Lohman stressed that women poisoned their husbands (and children!) a lot more often when they didn’t have the options of divorce and reproductive rights.

We were impressed to see such a large turnout for this installment of Free Fridays compared to previous months we’ve attended, and hope it’s a trend that exposes more people to the archives and exhibits at Brooklyn Historical Society—perhaps Brooklyn’s most misunderstood museum. 3

Andrew Andrews attended Free Fridays: Mad, Dangerous Love at Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn on Friday, February 10, 2017 @ 5:00pm to write this review.