Category: News

Introducing Kathy Drake

KathleenProfilePicKathy Drake recently joined the Trust as the new Membership Coordinator bringing over five
years of experience working in the arts. A Philly native, Kathy returns to the area after having
worked in New York City for the last two and a half years. During her time in NYC, Kathy was
a Post Sale Manager at Sotheby’s where she oversaw internal logistics to ensure an
exceptional client experience for a variety of sales. The most notable – and most memorable –
auction she worked on was the record-setting wine sale: “Wines from the Cellar of William I.
Koch” in May 2016. Before moving to Manhattan, she gained valuable experience in the auction world while working with a variety of art objects at William Bunch Auctions & Appraisals in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a minor in Art History from West Chester University. In her studies, she focused her studio practice on figurative painting and drawing, and took a particular interest in the history of modern graphic design. Kathy worked as the curatorial assistant intern for the Brandywine River Museum of Art while studying for her undergraduate degree. In this role she assisted with exhibition research on antique weathervanes and compiled extensive information and documentation for an ongoing catalogue raisonné project on the Wyeth family. Outside of work, Kathy enjoys exploring her favorite city of Philadelphia, spending time with her family, and creating art.

“After working in the art world for several years now, I am thrilled to contribute to this impressive
community and learn more about development in the non-profit arts sector. I am particularly excited for
our upcoming New Orleans symposium and I look forward to meeting all of our members!” 

Meet the Trust: Nick Vincent

Nicholas Vincent
Nicholas Vincent

While the Trust’s staff members are the most familiar faces leading symposia, tours, and study trips, a great deal of our event planning is facilitated by the Programming Committee of the Board of Governors. This past month, the Committee welcomed a new chair, Nick Vincent, who joined the Board in January.

Nick’s involvement with the Decorative Arts Trust began in 2007, when he received a Dewey Lee Curtis Scholarship to attend a symposium in Pittsburgh. Since then, he has helped arrange tours for the Trust around New York City, particularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he has worked in various capacities for the past 11 years. He recently assisted the staff during the Hartford and Upper Hudson symposia.

A graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, Nick’s tenure at the Met began in the American Wing. He currently serves as Manager of Collection Planning for the Director’s Office and is responsible for coordinating museum-wide collections care, storage, and loan initiatives in collaboration with more than 300 collections and curatorial staff.

Nick examines a c. 1670 Massachusetts court cupboard in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum during a quiet moment of the 2017 Fall Symposium to Hartford.
Nick examines a c. 1670 Massachusetts court cupboard in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum during a quiet moment of the 2017 Fall Symposium to Hartford.

Nick brings a wealth of programming experience to his new role with the board. From 2011 until 2016, he served on the board of the Decorative Arts Society as Vice President and Programming Chair, bringing members to programs in cities as distant as Chicago, IL, and Athens, GA. On behalf of the Met, he accompanied international tours to Switzerland and Egypt. As an adjunct professor and guest lecturer for Sotheby’s American Fine & Decorative Arts graduate program, Nick organized and lead tours along the eastern seaboard.  He credits his former professor (and now fellow Trust Governor) Brock Jobe for providing the example that, where itineraries are concerned, more is indeed more. In his spare time, Nick enjoys getting further acquainted with his newborn son, Leo; playing with the Met’s softball team; and planning trips for family and friends.

“Working with the Decorative Arts Trust’s staff and board is one of my favorite parts of being involved,” Nick says, “and the mission and its impact will continue to have enormous consequences in the field.” He is particularly looking forward to expanding the scope and content of the Trust’s programming over the next few years. We are very excited to work with Nick as we expand our calendar and look forward to discovering new territories and opportunities with you!

 

A New Chapter for Drayton Hall

Opened this past May, Drayton Hall’s brand new Sally Reahard Visitor Center is the organization’s most visible recent effort to open up the site to visitors. Incorporating the first purpose-built dedicated gallery and exhibit space, easier access to the house and grounds, and active incorporation of the property’s ongoing archaeological excavations, the visitor center brings to light the transformative investigations of the past decade and offers new interpretations based on documentary and archaeological evidence.

Built between 1747 and 1752 as a rice and indigo plantation for John Drayton, Drayton Hall descended in the family for seven generations before it was turned over to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since opening to the public in 1977 the house has been preserved as an unfurnished architectural relic. Although the family’s possessions have long been scattered to descendants and various museums, ongoing archaeological excavations have helped uncover the material record of early life on the property.

The Sally Reahard Visitor Center at Drayton Hall. Image Courtesy of Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.
The Sally Reahard Visitor Center at Drayton Hall. Image Courtesy of Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

The visitor center’s inaugural exhibit covers the house’s construction and early years. The third son of a prominent family, John Drayton’s early life is largely a documentary blank until his acquisition of the property, but even subsequent records are spotty. For example, in 2014, the dendrochronology of the roof’s support beams proved that the house’s construction began a decade later than previously assumed. Still unknown is how many enslaved workers lived on the property during the earliest years, despite their presence being extensively documented on other similar properties of the era. The exhibit tackles these issues head-on, displaying treasures such as the earliest known architectural rendering of Drayton Hall, thought to have been made by John Drayton himself, archaeological finds, and the uncomfortable history of slavery on the site. The most unexpected, and disturbing, object currently on view is a silver slave brand that would produce the mark “I Drayton.” Although the practice of branding was relatively rare in North America, and there is no written evidence of it with regard to Drayton Hall, this object is proof that the historical traumas of slavery were very real, regardless of whether or not they were documented.

The staff of Drayton Hall is eager to bring a richer experience to visitors going forward. “The heart of this project is the opportunity to display our collection,” says Carter Hudgins, President and CEO of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. “Visitors can now expect much more than a tour of the estate.” Likewise, the staff archaeologist and curator of collections Sarah Stroud Clarke looks forward to using the galleries to “delve much more deeply” into stories of the property’s inhabitants from the slaves to John Drayton’s early life.  

The Decorative Arts Trust is thrilled to host a one-day symposium in collaboration with Drayton Hall on September 15. “An Agreeable Prospect: Rediscovering Drayton Hall in the 18th-Century Atlantic World” will explore new research about John and Charles Drayton’s cosmopolitan outlook in the colonial era, covering landscape, architecture, and decorative arts. Participants will enjoy in-depth tours and lectures by Drayton Hall staff and renowned experts who assisted in the preservation of the house and reinstallation of the galleries. An optional fundraiser in support of the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program and Drayton Hall’s Wood Family Fellowship Fund will also take place the night before at the c. 1770 Charles Elliott House in Charleston. The day’s itinerary and registration page can be found here. Please join us for this exciting event!

 

The Empire State Plaza and New York State Capitol

The Upper Hudson: Four Centuries of Craft and Commerce

Among the oldest surviving European settlements in the United States, Albany and the Upper Hudson region boast a rich and often overlooked array of historic sites that illustrate the region’s economic importance to the development of the modern United States. Throughout the symposium, participants encountered sites introducing topics ranging from the Dutch fur trade to the Erie Canal, and from post-industrial urban renewal to the renovation of Colonial Revival historic house museums.

The program began with an introduction to Albany’s architectural history and development by City Historian Tony Opalka. While comparatively few traces remain of the original Dutch city, the Low Country influence remains in the original city plan and the fashionable 18th-century houses built after the colony’s handover to the British. Like many communities, Albany struggled with economic recession throughout the 20th century, and various development projects erased many historic neighborhoods. The symposium’s opening lecture and reception took place in the heart of the massive Empire State Plaza, an urban renewal effort of the 1960s and 1970s at the behest of Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Although the massive construction project modernized the city’s infrastructure and provided much needed space for the state government, it came at the cost of the destruction of several historic 19th-century neighborhoods.

Friday’s itinerary focused on the early history of Albany and its rise to national prominence. Former Trust Governor and Co-President of the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust Peter Kenny discussed the rapid development of cosmopolitan European cultural life in the area with the Dutch settlement in 1614. The area’s economic importance to the country increased with the opening of the Erie Canal, which according to historian Duncan Hay, became a major aspect of the region’s identity. After lunch at the historic Fort Orange Club, we visited three key sites in the city. The Albany Institute of History and Art, founded in 1791, is one of the oldest extant museums in the United States. Our guides, curators Doug McCoombs and Diane Shewchuk, brought participants up close and personal with the museum’s extraordinary collection during a special tour through collections storage and the galleries. Participants were treated to a close look at furniture by French-born New York cabinetmaker Charles-Honoré Lannuier, while Christian enjoyed the opportunity to briefly hijack the tour to show participants original concept sketches by industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, the subject of his master’s thesis. Heidi Hill’s tour of Schuyler Mansion was a particular highlight of the day. Hill has overseen a vast restoration program during her tenure at the site, particularly in the lead up to the house’s recent centennial as a museum in 2017. Although work continues, the digital reproduction of Philip Schuyler’s “Ruins of Rome” wallpaper and replicas of the family’s back stools in the front hall offer visitors an immersive, tactile link to the house’s heyday during the American Revolution. Many took advantage of an opportunity to sit on the chairs—a rare opportunity at a historic site!

Saturday’s schedule brought participants across the Hudson River to Troy. Founded in the late 18th century, the city became an industrial center in the 19th century, making it one of the wealthiest communities in the nation. Economic depression through much of the 20th century had the fortuitous effect of preserving many fine buildings. In addition to touring a fabulous private collection, participants were wowed by the splendor of St. Paul’s church. The 1820s gothic structure was renovated and redecorated in the 1880s by Tiffany Studios. As one of the few surviving intact Tiffany interiors, it is a marvelous time capsule. Tiffany historian Josh Probert offered enlightening commentary on the church’s decorative program and significance.  

An additional highlight of our time in Troy was our visit to the Rensselaer County Historical Society and the Hart-Cluett House. A rare survivor, the interpretation of this early-19th-century townhouse is strengthened by astounding archival material discovered by RCHS board member Dough Boucher packed away in a long-forgotten trunk. Participants were able to view receipts from talented local furniture maker Elisha Galusha, whose Rococco Revival designs are popular among local collectors. The Hart family kept meticulous records of their purchases, including many from Galusha, that were displayed along with the extant furnishings they document.

In the afternoon, participants chose between two of tours of Albany’s historic districts. An excursion to the Capitol Hill neighborhood included a visit to the collections storage of the New York State Museum with Curator Connie Frisbee Houde and Curator Emeritus John Scherer before exploring the Masonic Lodge and State Capitol. Other participants chose to investigate archaeological excavations at the city’s oldest surviving house, the Van Ostrande-Radliffe house of 1728, followed by a walk along the historic Pearl Street district ending at the First Reformed Church, designed by renowned Albany architect Philip Hooker.

Developments in historic preservation and interpretation are ongoing throughout the Upper Hudson region, and we enjoyed updates on recent findings during our Sunday lectures. Local independent scholar Britney Schline Yatrakis, the Marie Zimmermann Emerging Scholar Lecturer, shared new research on the collaboration between women and jacquard weavers in upstate New York in the designs of coverlets. Siena College professors Jennifer Dorsey and Robin Flatland concluded the program with a discussion of their collaborative project with the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence, the home of an African-American abolitionist family that served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Their work involves outreach in the local community and will use virtual reality technology to help interpret the space.

Although Albany may is often overlooked, the symposium introduced Trust members to fascinating sites and exciting research on the spectacular public and private collections. We look forward to equally exciting programs in the coming months, including our special one-day program at Drayton Hall and fall symposium in New Orleans!

The Decorative Arts Society Summer Research Grant

The Decorative Arts Trust has relied on the generosity of many donors over the years to underwrite the annual investment into the Emerging Scholars Program. We are pleased to announce the receipt of generous assistance from a like-minded organization on the West Coast, the Decorative Arts Society of Orange County, known as DARTS.

The Decorative Arts Society Board of Directors. Photo courtesy of the Decorative Arts Society, Orange County, CA.
The Decorative Arts Society Board of Directors.

This impressive group formed 1995 and boasts more than 250 members. Although their programming calendar focuses on an annual schedule of lectures by leading figures in the world of decorative arts and design, its philanthropic mission supports the needs of the surrounding community. The founder and first president, Mary Anna Jeppe, envisioned DARTS as a supporting friends group for New Directions for Women, a local rehabilitation and social services nonprofit. Over two decades, the group has flourished, raising over $2 million for community-minded nonprofits in Southern California, particularly focused on those working with women and children.

We are honored to be the first organization outside of California to receive support from DARTS. Their grant will endow an annual Summer Research Grant for graduate students pursuing topics based on objects, collections, crafts, or designers located on the West Coast, or decorative arts-focused students enrolled in West Coast institutions. Through this partnership, the Decorative Arts Trust looks forward to extending our reach to the Pacific!

“We look at this collaboration as an investment in the future” says DARTS board member Sandra Ayres, “both in the Decorative Arts Trust, and in the future trajectory of our own organization.”

We look forward to further profiling the Decorative Arts Society once the first recipient of this grant is revealed! For those interested, applications for the Decorative Arts Trust Summer Research Grants are due no later than April 30, 2018. More information, as well as downloadable application forms, can be obtained on our website.

New Members for the Trust’s Board of Governors

The Board of Governors of the Decorative Arts Trust has played a leading role in the development of this organization over the past 40 years, and their leadership ensures its continued success. We have enjoyed the privilege of welcoming five new members over the past year.

Mary Raines
Mary Raines

 

Mary E. Raines: Mary is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Emory University Law School. She practiced law in Atlanta as an in-house attorney for Delta Air Lines for 25 years prior to her retirement in 2005. While in Atlanta, she served as President of the Friends of Decorative Arts at the High Museum. She currently resides in Savannah, GA, where she is Vice President of the Friends of the Owens Thomas House of the Telfair Museum and serves on the Telfair’s Collections Committee. She also served a term on the City of Savannah’s Cultural Affairs Commission. Mary has attended Trust symposia and international tours for many years and also participated in the Winterthur Institute program in 2015.

 

Tara Cederholm
Tara Cederholm

 

 

Tara Cederholm: Tara is a graduate of Middlebury College and Boston University, where she received her MA in Art History with an emphasis on American furniture and decorative arts. Tara worked at Skinner Auctions and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities before becoming the steward of a private collection focused on American furniture and decorative arts as well and Chinese furniture, ceramics, and related decorative arts. She is also the Curator and Vice President of the Brookfield Arts Foundation, a private operating foundation which acquires and lends art works to various museums. Tara is a noted scholar, author, and speaker on topics of American, English, and Chinese furniture history and is currently leading an ongoing investigation of the art of japanning in 18th-century Boston. She joined the Decorative Arts Trust in 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Concord Museum.

James "Hornor" Davis
James “Hornor” Davis

 

James Hornor Davis, IV: Hornor is the Chairman of Dingess-Rum Properties, Inc., a landholding and investment company in West Virginia. He previously served as the executive director of Sunrise Museums in Charleston, WV, and also practiced property and corporate law. He holds a BA in architectural history from the University of Virginia and a JD from the West Virginia University College of Law. A native of West Virginia with strong ties to Rhode Island and South Carolina, Hornor recently relocated to Mt. Desert, ME. He is involved with numerous boards and advisory committees focused on the humanities, arts, and philanthropy, and is an active and long-term member of the Decorative Arts Trust.

 

 

Nicholas Vincent
Nicholas Vincent

 

 

Nicholas C. Vincent: Nick is the Manager of Collection Planning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where, on behalf of the Deputy Director, he provides strategic direction and general oversight for collections management, art storage, and gallery projects across the institution. From 2007 to 2014, Nick served as a Research Associate in the Met’s American Wing, assisting with the comprehensive renovation of the Met’s American art galleries, supervising the installation of the ca. 1882 Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room, and co-curating the special exhibition “Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age.” Nick is a graduate of the Attingham Summer School program and holds a BA from Wesleyan University (CT), a MA in the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and MA in arts administration from NYU. Nick received a Dewey Lee Curtis scholarship to attend the Trust’s 2007 symposium in Pittsburgh.

 

Carolyn McNamara
Carolyn McNamara

Carolyn McNamara is a strong advocate for the decorative arts and experiential learning for the next generation of scholars. She and her husband Mike are avid collectors of Southern furniture and 18th-century Virginia and North Carolina maps. Members of the Trust since 2012, they recently endowed the Trust’s Young Scholar Lecture program during Colonial Williamsburg’s Antiques Forum. Carolyn and Mike have participated in several Study Trips Abroad. A retired Administrator for the Heart Center of the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals at Virginia Commonwealth University, Carolyn now enjoys volunteering her time for Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. She is a member of Williamsburg’s Art Museums Advisory Board, the Friends of Collections, and the Raleigh Tavern Society. Carolyn has served two terms on the MESDA Advisory Board and is an enthusiastic supporter of their Summer Institute Scholarship Program. Carolyn and Mike, along with their dog Ziva, live in Williamsburg, and enjoy introducing their three grandchildren to history and the decorative arts.

Summer Research Report: Catherine Acosta

We rely and many individuals and foundations to support our multi-faceted Emerging Scholars Program, among them the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund. Catherine Acosta received one of our 2017 Zimmermann Research Grant recipient to assist with her study of the history of the pottery industry in Ohio. Catherine’s project is connected to her master’s thesis on American industrial designer and artist Viktor Schreckengost, a prominent designer for mid-20th-century dinnerware. Born in Sebring, OH, Schreckengost created designs for the local potteries. During Catherine’s travels in eastern Ohio, she visited sites in Sebring, Salem, East Liverpool, and Cleveland.

Catherine Acosta
Catherine Acosta

Catherine is a graduate student in her final year at the in the Master’s degree of the History of Design and Curatorial Studies at the Parsons School of Design and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. A native of Los Angeles, she received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. After college, she worked at the Glessner and Clarke House Museums before moving to New York City to pursue graduate work. As a hobby, she started selling mid-century dinnerware and home décor on Etsy, which fostered a love for the design history of that era and led to her research project. The Zimmermann Fund’s generous support through the Decorative Arts Trust allowed Catherine to spend a week exploring eastern Ohio’s ceramic history.

Catherine reports: “I traveled to Sebring and Salem, where Schreckengost designed for American Limoges and the Salem China Co. I also visited East Liverpool, the largest center for American pottery production in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Cleveland, where Schreckengost lived and worked most of his life. I poured over rich archives, and in some cases, catalogued never-before-seen materials.

“The Sebring Historical Society is housed in the Art Deco Strand Theatre near where most of the local potteries were located. Sebring was Schreckengost’s hometown. Founded as a pottery town in 1900, the community helped define his artistic identity. His father was a potter, a career both of his brothers followed as well. The Historical Society is crammed with Schreckengost-designed objects, ranging from dinnerware to pedal cars and bicycles. I spent a day exploring objects and the Sebring pottery archive. By its nature, the pottery industry can be elusive for historians: many potteries, along with all their equipment and records, have succumbed to fire. That is not to say evidence of these enterprises does not survive. The weedy grounds outside the theatre were covered in glinting shards as far as you could see. While gathering some of these treasures, I also stumbled on large red brick rings in the ground, the foundations of the enormous beehive kilns that produced Schreckengost dinnerware.

 

“In Salem, I had the distinct honor to be the first researcher to climb the rickety stairs to the attic of the Salem Historical Society, where I discovered several unopened boxes of Salem China Co. corporate archives. Containing Depression-era marketing materials, internal newsletters, and original photographs of pottery workers, this collection helped me build a case study of the pottery industry in the 1930s, detailing executive decision making, design objectives, and Schreckengost’s activities as a contracted designer.

“The East Liverpool Museum of Ceramics, located on the Ohio River near the juncture of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, helped further contextualize the broader tri-state pottery industry, which began in the 1830s. East Liverpool was known as the pottery capital of the U.S. for over a century. Through this visit I gained a more nuanced sense of the variety of commercial ceramics made in the region and of the industrial pottery process and explored one of the few remaining beehive kilns.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the Zimmermann Fund and Decorative Arts Trust for this invaluable opportunity to help tell this overlooked but important chapter in American design and industrial history.”

We are most grateful for the Zimmermann Fund’s continuing support of the Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program through Catherine’s research grant. We are pleased to announce that Catherine will present her findings during our Emerging Scholars Colloquium on January 21, 2018, following our annual Antiques Weekend program. Registration opens soon, and we encourage all decorative arts aficionados and scholars to join us for a series of presentations highlighting the noteworthy results of the Trust’s research grant program!

Connecticut Header

Connecticut: All Museums Great and Small

Hartford boasts impressive historic statistics: founded in 1635, it is one of the oldest cities in the country; the local Wadsworth Atheneum is the nation’s oldest public art museum; and the city is home to the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper, the oldest publicly funded park, and the second-oldest secondary school. Compared to these, the Decorative Arts Trust is still a spring chicken at 40!

While our primary focus for the weekend was all things Connecticut, we took the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate this significant anniversary during our Thursday lectures and reception at the Wadsworth Atheneum. We were honored to have Jonathan Fairbanks and John and Penny Hunt emerge from well-deserved retirements to reflect on the past four decades of decorative arts scholarship and the growth of the Trust. As an organization, we have undergone tremendous transformation during our four decades while remaining true to our passion and mission of engagement with the decorative arts field. The Emerging Scholars Program has long been an essential component of the Trust’s mission and is a particular point of pride as a significant philanthropic force within the museum field. After the lectures, which brought back many fond memories and a few misty eyes, we adjourned to the recently reinstalled Morgan Great Hall for a celebration of this milestone.

Friday may have brought us back down to earth, but thankfully Connecticut is a wonderful place for a landing. We began the day at the Connecticut Historical Society, where a trio of lectures introduced participants to the craft traditions of the state. Speakers included renowned antique dealers Arthur Liverant and Kevin Tulimieri, former CHS curator Susan Schoelwer, and Kevin Ferrigno and Christina Keyser Vida, who have long maintained a scholarly interest in Connecticut furniture. Susan, Kevin, and Christina kindly led workshops on Connecticut needlework and furniture at the CHS during the afternoon.

Participants also visited two local icons, the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. These two literary icons of 19th-century America were friends and neighbors, and today the decorative arts take center stage to tell their story and celebrate their contributions. The fashionable furnishings throughout the Mark Twain House speak to the financial success brought about by the enormous popularity of his writings, while also interpreting his affectionate family life and gregarious entertaining of both local society and international celebrities in the house. By contrast, a humble dining table at the Stowe Center, likely made in Boston, takes pride of place as the surface on which Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a great deal of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The table is the focus of an entire gallery, where a short media presentation pays homage to the role of Stowe’s writing on the course of our nation’s history. The evening concluded with a special tour and reception at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, an unusual institution that features three adjacent 18th-century houses. Although their owners, a merchant, a leatherworker, and a diplomat, were somewhat unlikely neighbors, the houses remain to interpret the rich history of the town of Wethersfield.

Saturday’s schedule introduced participants to museums and collections both great and small across Connecticut, which were superbly introduced by the morning’s lectures: Brandy Culp on new directions for the decorative arts at the Wadsworth, Jeannine Falino on the museum’s extraordinary Hammerslough Collection of silver, and Bill Hosley on the culture and craft of the Connecticut River Valley. All three lectures were a wonderful prelude to a series of tours of the Wadsworth’s extensive collection, which include everything from the Morgan Collection of European decorative arts to the homegrown Wallace Nutting collection of American furniture. Participants had the opportunity to glimpse behind-the-scenes areas at the Wadsworth rarely open to public access.

Because Connecticut offers something for everyone, participants could choose one of three options for the afternoon’s site visits. One group stayed local to Hartford, learning about the city’s 18th-and 19th-century history and architecture at the Butler-McCook and Isham-Terry Houses. Another group enjoyed an excursion to 20th-century sites, including the theatrical Chick Austin House, where Bauhaus design met Baroque furniture in a heady combination, before venturing to the Arts and Crafts style campus of Avon Old Farms School, designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, one of the first registered female architects in America.  For those who still had not had their fill of antique furniture or sought an opportunity to make an acquisition, a third group enjoyed an excursion to Colchester for a workshop at the gallery of Nathan Liverant & Son, one of the premiere dealers in American antiques.

All good things must come to an end, but thanks to our Sunday lecturers ensured we ended on a high note. Two emerging scholars, Ben Colman and Willie Granston, presented their original research of the decorative arts of Connecticut, from locally made furniture to the legacy of building undertaken by Elizabeth Colt to memorialize her family. New discoveries of local history were highlighted by Catherine Fields, the director of the Litchfield Historical Society, whose presentation on Litchfield merchant Elijah Boardman’s ledgers delighted the audience. Our time in Hartford was closed by Bill Hosley, who gave a rousing introduction to the many small museums around Connecticut, each worthy of celebration and support.

The Trust’s 40-year milestone has brought our members to, by our count, 80 Symposia in 58 different locations. We have enjoyed a wonderful and memorable journey, characterized by deep friendships and a shared passion for the decorative arts. We are incredibly grateful for friends both old and new who made the journey to Hartford this September, and look forward to many exciting and adventurous years ahead!

Introducing Elisabeth Mallin

Earlier this year, Elisabeth Mallin became the 2017-2019 Decorative Arts Trust Associate Curator at the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS).

Elisabeth Mallin
Elisabeth Mallin examining a Baltimore-made painted table that recently arrived at the Maryland Historical Society as a long-term loan.

Elisabeth comes to MdHS with an impressive list of accomplishments. An alumna of Yale University, she worked as a Warnock Fellow at the Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell before obtaining a Master’s Degree from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. Her research interests brought her to a thesis topic on the construction of tall-case clocks in 18th-century Germantown, located outside of Philadelphia. After her studies at Winterthur, she gained further experience with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, first as an Andrew W. Mellon Intern in the curatorial department, and then as a Marshall Steel, Sr. Fellow in conservation, where she specialized in historic and reproduction upholstery under conservator Leroy Graves.  

In her first months at the MdHS, Elisabeth has commenced a survey of the furniture collection to identify its strengths and weaknesses. The major project during her tenure will be the revitalization of the museum’s furniture gallery. She will identify important pieces in storage that should go back out on display and develop connections between furniture and other decorative arts and family stories through installations within the gallery.  

In June, Elisabeth participated in her first Museum Committee meeting alongside her supervisor and mentor, Alexandra Deutsch, Director of Collections and Interpretation at the MdHS. They presented a strong group of potential acquisitions for the committee’s consideration and acceptance. In addition to her work on the furniture gallery, Alexandra has tasked Elisabeth with the initial evaluation of gift offers, and the two have already visited several collectors and new donors. She is also assisting in the final run-up to the October opening of the exhibit “Structure and Perspective: David Brewster and Maryland’s Social Landscape,” which highlights the work of a living artist.

 

The MdHS is Maryland’s oldest continuously operating cultural institution and includes a museum and the H. Furlong Baldwin Library. The organization occupies a complex centered around the historic façade at 201 West Monument Street, which has housed the society since 1919. The facility was expanded in 1953 and 1968 and completely renovated in 2003. In addition to maintaining the museum and library, the society has published the quarterly Maryland Historical Magazine since 1906.

With a collection of more than 350,000 objects, encompassing everything from decorative arts to the largest collection of works by the Peale family, to maritime objects, the institution has been at the forefront of outreach and educational programming since the early 20th century. Following the Civil War, the museum has also focused on collecting artifacts of the recent past, a process  explored in the recent exhibition “The What & The Why: Collecting at the Maryland Historical Society.”

We are thrilled to follow Elisabeth’s career for the next two years and will run an article detailing her work at the MdHS in our winter magazine. “Elisabeth is already contributing important work each and every day,” says Alexandra Deutsch. “She jumped into our preparations for an offsite costume exhibition, tackled an inquiry about Lannuier chairs, examined a fine Baltimore painted table (a wonderful soon-to-be acquisition!) and oriented herself with impressive speed to various projects we are tackling simultaneously, including a total revision of the Collections Policy. She is truly a perfect fit and is making such a difference to our everyday work in the department.

The Trust is grateful for the generous support of our members and the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund for making this opportunity possible through the Emerging Scholars Program. Trust members will have the opportunity to attend a special program organized by Elisabeth in the coming year.

Scotland Header

Scotland: A Legacy of Cultural Achievement

After two years of planning, the Decorative Arts Trust launched our most ambitious Study Trip Abroad to date. All told nearly eighty members filled three back-to-back excursions to Scotland, a tour appropriately titled “A Legacy of Cultural Achievement.” The itinerary touched on the numerous highlights of Scotland’s rich history as well as the craftsmen and artistic influences that made their way to America.

Beginning in Edinburgh, participants enjoyed a walking tour designed to explore the contrasts between the city’s medieval Old Town and the Enlightenment-era New Town. Laid out in 1767 by a 28-year-old James Craig, the New Town also introduced the group to the architectural sensibilities of Robert Adam, who established the neoclassical idiom there with the construction of the Register Building. City regulations mandated highly finished facades intended to draw fashion-conscious residents across to the more spacious and sanitary portion of the city. These exteriors were a stark contrast to the irregular appearance of the low-cost free stone used throughout the Old Town.

Outside the Edinburgh city limits, we toured numerous country houses connected to the Adam family of architects, including the patriarch William and his sons John, James, and Robert. William was an entrepreneur extraordinaire and supplied building materials for his projects from his own quarries. His exuberant Baroque and Palladian houses and interiors were de rigeur, often featuring plasterwork by master stuccador Thomas Clayton and woodwork from carver and gilder William Strachan. Participants were treated to excellent examples of William’s oeuvre at Arniston and The Drum, both private houses. It was not unusual for one of William’s sons to later complete his father’s designs or modify them to suit later fashions, as in the case of Arniston.

The participation of Scottish decorative arts scholars enhanced our study of the material on view. Stephen Jackson and Godfrey Evans shared the exceptional collection of the Scottish National Museum. Our members gained immensely from the guidance of furniture historian David Jones, who provided in-depth connoisseurship lessons on Scottish cabinetmakers, ensuring that we could distinguish the work of Edinburgh wrights Alexander Peter and William Trotter. David’s gracious instruction enhanced the visits to many of the public and private collections visited, including Dumfries House, Mellerstain, Hopetoun House, Culzean Castle, and Traquair.

Trust members also received a good dose of Scottish history, learning about the clans and their strife that dominated the country’s struggles between the 13th and 16th centuries. Despite generations of political turmoil, Scottish intelligentsia became profoundly influential in Western thought and civilization through the Scottish Reformation and Enlightenment. Edinburgh was known as the Athens of the North and served as a leading center for economic, political, and medical discourse and education.

The connections with America abounded. Participants on our third tour visited Paxton House, furnished by Thomas Chippendale in the “neat and plain” style of furniture preferred by George Washington and his Chesapeake contemporaries. The groups also saw the parallels between the work of Edinburgh cabinetmakers and the furniture of craftsmen such as Robert Walker and Thomas Affleck who emigrated from Scotland to Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively.  Scotland’s central role in the transmission of style to the American colonies was clear, with both countries establishing a cultural and aesthetic identity distinct from English patterns.

The preservation of historic sites and objects defines Scotland’s strong sense of national pride. At Traquair, Scotland’s oldest continuously occupied house, the family now proudly displays items relating to their support of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Jacobite Cause, and their Catholic faith, which was outlawed under sanctions from the government until emancipation in 1829. At Abbotsford, historic curiosities collected by Sir Walter Scott were tied to major figures and events from Scottish history, including William Wallace and the Battle of Culloden. At Bowhill, a house greatly expanded throughout the 19th century, we encountered the Duke of Buccleuch’s new initiatives in the conservation of original wall treatments, not to mention the world-class painting collection of this important Scottish country house. Today, the quest to preserve Scottish heritage in a sustainable manner is resulting in diverse approaches to public sites, such as the Scottish National Trust’s efforts at Newhailes, private charities that preserve family homes such as Hopetoun, and many homes and collections that remain in private hands, such as Balcarres House.

Thanks to the hard and diligent work of our staff, representatives of the Board of Governors, and our colleagues at Specialtours, the three back-to-back study trips (separated by two Highland extensions nonetheless) were our most popular trips to date. Not wishing to rest on our laurels, however, preparations are in full swing for subsequent adventures in Venice and the Veneto in October 2017, Sweden and Denmark in May and June 2018, and Prague and Vienna in October 2018. We are most grateful for the continued enthusiasm and support of the members who attend these wonderful Study Trips Abroad!