VOICE AFans which incorporate the plumage of birds have a history stretching back thousands of years. Feather fans are mentioned in early Greek and Roman literature and are sometimes depicted on antique vases. The Fan Museum’s earliest fan, probably Peruvian, dates from the twelfth century and incorporates macaw feathers.VOICE BIn the sixteenth century feather fans were popular costume accessories. Queen Elizabeth I, is depicted in several portraits holding fans set with feathers. Feather fans were probably introduced to the Tudor Court through the Italian state city of Venice – at this time a centre of luxury goods trading. VOICE AFeather fans were especially popular toward the end of the nineteenth century and onwards into the first decades of the subsequent century, and it is from this period that most of the Fan Museum’s feather fans date. A fashion for exotic plumage at this time resulted in the threat of extinction for many breeds and precipitated the rise of the bird preservation movement and foundation of the Audubon Society and the RSPB.

Press play to start the audio from the beginning

The Fan Museum

The Fan Museum is the UK's only organisation of its kind, devoted entirely to the subject of fans and craft of fan making. Housed in two beautifully restored Georgian period townhouses, its collections number more than 7,000 objects dating from the 12th century to present day.


  • London United Kingdom