(photo by Azikiwe Mohammed via the Museum of Arts and Design)

In adolescence our names and nicknames, along with everything else, take on a greater importance. This is perhaps why, as Marcel Rosa-Salas and Isabel Flower have observed, nameplates are particularly popular among teenagers. Those glistening letters, hanging around our necks, are part of our search to define and discover our identities. Drawn by this tradition, Rosa-Salas, a cultural anthropologist and documentary filmmaker, and Flower, a writer and editor, began “Documenting the Nameplate,” a project that has been tracking nameplate jewelry in all its styles.

This Thursday at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Rosa-Salas and Flower will share some of their findings, which will eventually be collected into a book. The project relies heavily on public input, such as through open call events where people can share the backstories of their own nameplates and have them photographed — often by notable artists, including Azikiwe Mohammed and Naima Green. And with the aim to reach a more international audience, Rosa-Salas and Flower have created an online portal where anyone can submit their images and stories.

“One of the main trends is that these pieces serve as coming-of-age items,” Rosa-Salas observed of nameplates (including the first one she ever owned, her name “in simple script with an underline and a heart”) in an interview with the Fader. For both of us, the intersection between jewelry and language, or any kind of self-styling and language, is really important,” added Flower. “I have really enjoyed making jewelry with words that mean something to me.”

Rosa-Salas and Flower have also made a concerted effort to show that the culture of nameplates goes far beyond the “Carrie necklace,” which became a popular phenomenon in the early 2000s after Sarah Jessica Parker’s character on Sex and the City wore a golden nameplate. As the curious and unique research of “Documenting the Nameplate” shows, this overlooked piece of jewelry has a much richer history.

When: Thursday, June 14, 7–8:30pm
Where: Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) (2 Columbus Circle, Midtown, Manhattan)

More info at the Museum of Arts and Design.

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Elisa Wouk Almino

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.