Category: News

Visit Museums from Home: 19 Virtual Tours of Famous Collections

We travel and culture buffs aren’t good in a quarantine. We itch to get out to experience exceptional objects and breathtaking spaces in person. Luckily, many museums have teamed with Google Arts & Culture to create virtual tours of their collections. The Decorative Arts Trust hopes these online tours assuage your cabin fever and melt away the stresses of the world for a few moments. If you are new to Google’s 360˚ Street View panoramic tours, simply open the link and use your cursor or the arrow to move through rooms. Look for an “x” and click on it to move to that spot. There is even a Google Arts & Culture app

Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum

Berlin: Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin

Berlin: Pergamonmuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Boston: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago 

Florence: Uffizi Gallery 

Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bayou Bend First Floor, Bayou Bend Second Floor, Rienzi First Floor

Kansas City: The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

Kraków: The National Museum, The Matejko House, The Józef Mehoffer House 

London: Tate Britain 

Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropología, México (National Museum of Anthropology)

Mumbai: Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum

New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art 

Paris: The Louvre (Adobe flash player required)

Paris: Musée d’Orsay

St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Museum 

Vienna: Albertina 

There are many more museum virtual tours on Google Arts & Culture as well as on individual organizations’ websites. Google also offers a number of virtual tours of heritage site and landmarks. For a different kind of virtual tour, check out this British Museum collection timeline tour. We hope these digital experiences provide you with some enjoyment, relaxation, and edification!

We need your support! The Decorative Arts Trust is a non-profit, membership organization that promotes and fosters the appreciation and study of the decorative arts. We achieve our mission through exchanging information through domestic and international programming, collaborating and partnering with museums and preservation organizations, and underwriting internships, research grants, and scholarships for graduate students and young professionals as part of our Emerging Scholars Program. For more information about the Trust and recent research in the decorative arts field, see our website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and YouTube channel

Announcing the New Decorative Arts Trust Prize for Excellence and Innovation

To further the Decorative Arts Trust’s mission to promote and foster the appreciation and study of the arts, the Trust has established a Prize for Excellence and Innovation to be awarded annually beginning in 2020. The inaugural prize will be for $100,000 to a scholarly endeavor undertaken by a non-profit organization, such as museum exhibitions, print and digital publications, and online databases. Projects for consideration must advance the public’s appreciation of decorative arts, fine arts, architecture, or landscape design.

All images courtesy of Old Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

The Trust invites applicants to submit nominations and self-nominations through June 30, 2020, which should stipulate the defined mission and outcomes of the project as well as include a budget, project timeline, and list of key personnel and partners, if applicable. Projects can extend 1–5 years for final completion after the prize is awarded, but no longer. Collaborative endeavors that unite multiple institutions will also receive consideration.

The Trust’s selection committee aims to recognize impactful and original projects that advance the field while reaching a broad audience. Finalists will be notified by the end of 2020.

The Trust’s Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow believes “this new award will advance the work of our talented mid- and late-career colleagues as a complement to our efforts to support young scholars through the Emerging Scholars Program. Thanks to the generosity of three lead donors, we are making a long-term commitment to furthering innovative scholarship in the arts while reinforcing the Trust’s mission and promoting our broader programs. We look forward to celebrating exceptional endeavors in the arts.”

The Trust is thrilled to embark on this initiative. We welcome additional contributions to endow the Prize, including appreciated securities and IRA and other retirement fund disbursements. 

Edit: The March 31, 2020, deadline was extended to June 30, 2020, on March 25, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All images courtesy of Old Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.

Decorative Arts Trust Board of Governors Thanks Reed, Hardy, and Brockway, Welcomes Buchanan and May

The beginning of a new year signals a changing of the guard at the Decorative Arts Trust. As our Board of Governors begins its 2020 transition, we are taking this time to thank three longtime leaders and to welcome two new leaders to our fold.

Helen Scott Reed

Helen Scott Reed

Helen Scott Reed has been a prominent fixture at the Trust for almost 40 years. Helen Scott was a driving force behind the creation of the Study Trip Abroad program in the 1990s and has led dozens of programs across Europe with our members. She served as the Board’s Treasurer for three years and Secretary for eight years. We wish Helen all the best, and we know we’ll see her on our travels! 

James J. Hardy

James J. Hardy

Dr. James J. Hardy was appointed to the Board in 2007 and has served as Treasurer since 2017. Jim and his wife, Mig, have been active members, participating in numerous domestic and international programs. Jim recently opened James Hardy Design, Inc. and is transitioning from a medical practice to an interior design studio.

Lucinda A. Brockway

Lucinda A. Brockway

The Board thanks outgoing Governor Cindy Brockway, who joined the Trust in 2012 and became a Governor in 2014. She currently serves as the Cultural Resources Program Director for The Trustees of Reservations, where she has been responsible for cultural landscapes and other cultural resources throughout Trustees’ 25,000 acres and 107 properties across Massachusetts. She was especially instrumental in facilitating the events of the Fall 2019 Symposium in the Berkshires.

Mel Buchanan

Mel Buchanan

New Board Governor Mel Buchanan is the RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at New Orleans Museum of Art. She studied at Yale University and the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and has held roles at the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Rhode Island School of Design. We’re looking forward to working with Mel on many upcoming decorative arts projects.

Gregory May

Gregory May

We welcome Gregory May to the Board as well. May is an internationally-known tax expert who brings a fresh and vigorous perspective to American financial history. After working as a Supreme Court law clerk, Greg practiced law in Washington, DC, and New York for thirty years. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and Harvard Law School. He has spent decades of working on historic preservation, and his knowledge of finance, history, and material culture will be an asset to the Trust.

Thank you these and all of the other leaders on our Board of Governors who have dedicated their time to guiding the Decorative Arts Trust.

Failey Grant Awarded to American Swedish Historical Museum

The Failey Grant program provides support for noteworthy research, exhibition, publication, and conservation projects through the Dean F. Failey Fund, named in honor of the Trust’s late Governor. Preference is given to projects that employ or are led by young professionals in the museum field. The Committee is pleased to announce that the level of funding for 2020 was increased to $10,000.

Dean F. Failey and Marie Failey
Dean F. Failey and Marie Failey

The Decorative Arts Trust has named the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia, PA, as the recipient of the 2020 Failey Grant. In 2021, the American Swedish Historical Museum will mount the exhibition American by Craft: The Art Furniture of Olaf Althin, which presents the career of a largely forgotten immigrant cabinetmaker. 

Working in Boston at the turn of the 20th century, Althin was an influential figure in the nascent American antiques trade. Curator Trevor Brandt is serving as project lead, assisted by Erica Lome, a doctoral candidate in the American Civilization Program at the University of Delaware and a past recipient of a Summer Research Grant from the Trust. 

Lome learned of Althin’s impressive career during her dissertation research, and the curatorial team has reconstructed his story while locating furniture made by him and tools, papers, photographs, and drawings to contextualize his oeuvre. His impressive list of patrons included H. Eugene Bolles, Henry Davis Sleeper, and John Wanamaker. The ASHM’s show will juxtapose Althin’s Scandinavian craft background against the American Arts & Crafts and Colonial Revival movements. The Decorative Arts Trust is excited to be a part of this inspiring exhibit. 

The Failey Grant is part of the Decorative Arts Trust’s Emerging Scholars Program, which supports a robust system of grants, scholarships, lectures, and internships.  Thank you to all of the members and donors who support our mission to encourage the next generation of museum curators and decorative arts historians.  

Meet Sara Long

Sara LongThe Decorative Arts Trust welcomes Sara Long, the new Communications and Marketing Coordinator. Sara focuses on informing members of new programs and initiatives as well as expanding knowledge of the Trust throughout the world. She works on the magazine, website, and blog as well as social media, press, advertising, and other promotional projects to support Executive Director Matthew A. Thurlow, Director of Educational Programs Kristina Gray, and Membership Coordinator Kathy Drake.

Sara has experience working on print publication, digital marketing, and content strategy in the nonprofit, arts, education, and corporate fields. She is a graduate of McDaniel College and has held roles at the International Literacy Association, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, the Delaware County Library System, Campbell’s Soup Company, and The Chemours Company.

Members will meet Sara at the Trust’s 2019 Fall Symposium, Inspired by the Berkshires: Autumn in Western Massachusetts, this week.

“I’m excited to spread the word about such a fantastic organization. The passion of the staff and members is inspiring—and I know I’ll have a lot of great stories to share!”

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 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.