True Colors: Light Damage and Historic Needlework

This January, Winterthur acquired at auction a canvaswork picture associated with a group of needlework made in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. This embroidery, circa 1750, was created by Mary Perrin of Roxbury, Massachusetts. In many ways, the needlework is in excellent condition and even retains its original frame. A very different object was revealed, however, when the work was removed from the frame. The culprit? Light damage!

Light damage is commonly seen on textiles. To observe the effects in your own home, simply pull back a curtain that has been hanging for some time; the side facing the window likely has faded to a lighter hue. The effects of light are cumulative and non-reversible. So if you have ever wondered why many rooms in a museum are dimly lit, now you know. In addition to causing the fading of dyed materials, light can also make textiles brittle and yellowed. After 266 years of varying exposure, the front of Mary Perrin’s needlework has changed from a vibrant composition, still visible on the protected back, into the more muted picture on display today.

Details of a needlework picture showing the protected back side on the left and the light-exposed front surface on the right, Mary Perrin (1737–1815), Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1750, wool, silk and metallic thread on linen. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.66.

Details of a needlework picture showing the protected back side on the left and the light-exposed front surface on the right, Mary Perrin (1737–1815), Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1750, wool, silk and metallic thread on linen. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.66.

Left: Back showing vibrant colors. Right: front, faded by light, as seen on display.

Left: Back showing vibrant colors. Right: front, faded by light, as seen on display.

If you want to learn more about light damage and other threats to historic textiles, check out this excellent web content from the Canadian Institute for Conservation: http://canada.pch.gc.ca/eng/1439925170741

Post by Lea Lane, Elizabeth and Robert Owens Curatorial Fellow

Posted in Academic Programs, antiques, Art Conservation, Conservation, Decorative Arts, museum collection, needlework, Students & Alumni, Textiles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Not Your Average Cleaning

 

Faced with the challenge of washing 42 windows one might think it would take at least a team of people a whole day to accomplish this task, but not when you have us on the job! Especially if those windows happen to be only a few inches in size.

Down and dirty! That is how we spent our time getting Nancy’s dollhouse to sparkle and shine, inside and out. In broad terms, the processes closely resembled the spring cleaning of a full-size house with dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and, of course, window washing. However, because of the dollhouse’s size and condition, there were some changes to the common procedure. For example, dusting and sweeping were performed with small, soft, bristle brushes and a Nilfisk variable speed vacuum with small, interchangeable nozzles. The window glass was cleaned using distilled water, in addition to Mineral Spirits, which helped remove wax residue, greasy films, and distracting paint splatter. We then brought the glass to a high shine with a microfiber cloth and more distilled water. General dirt and grime were removed from the exterior walls with white, rubber erasers before being gently wiped down with distilled water on Kimwipes and cotton swabs. These steps were also implemented on the interior walls, but only after first removing the large quantities of wax and Blu-Tack from the walls, floors, and mantels. We did this by gently scraping off large masses with small spatulas, followed by using mineral spirits and distilled water on cotton swabs when necessary.

These procedures represent the first of many steps to improve the appearance and stability of Nancy’s beloved dollhouse, so that it can be preserved and enjoyed in the many years to come in its new home at Winterthur Museum. In the coming weeks we will likely be taking on more complex challenges in regard to conservation treatment, especially when dealing with certain structural and aesthetic components of house, in addition to the large variety of materials that make up the many miniature objects that will fill it.

To read more dollhouse-related blog posts:

http://museumblog.winterthur.org/2016/07/05/a-doll-mansion/

http://museumblog.winterthur.org/2016/07/08/a-sticky-situation-in-the-doll-mansion/

http://museumblog.winterthur.org/2016/07/15/toilet-paper-but-no-toilet-in-the-doll-mansion/

Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum

Posted in Academic Programs, Behind-the-Scenes, Decorative Arts, Dollhouse, galleries, museum collection, Students & Alumni, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


A Tale of Two Thrones

The quality of the materials and the effort that has gone into Nancy McDaniel’s dollhouse are unquestionably noteworthy, but perhaps the most delightful quality of the house are the stories that accompany it. This is one of our favorite stories.

It may not come as a surprise that Nancy’s dollhouse was inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse in Windsor Castle. On a family trip to England in 1977, the McDaniel family was led past the dollhouse on a tour only to find that Nancy could not be torn away from it. Immediately upon returning home, she began the search for the perfect dollhouse maker. It wasn’t until 1984 that she found him, a dollhouse maker with a dozen helpers situated in a small town an hour outside of London.

queen mary

Upon visiting his large workshop and seeing the quality of his work, she knew he was the craftsman she had been looking for. The only problem was the largest dollhouses he built were just 10 rooms, and Nancy wanted a “doll mansion.” After complex negotiations, the house was built and shipped in 1985.

Upon its arrival in Connecticut, she had the house fully electrified and a real slate roof added. She then began assembling the many rooms. While the house itself is not a replica of the queen’s dollhouse, Nancy did celebrate her original inspiration by having her dollhouse bathroom closely resemble the king’s bathroom in Queen Mary’s dollhouse.

Queen Mary bathroom from Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/pin/438889926160376506/

Queen Mary bathroom from Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/pin/438889926160376506/

Furnished with green and white marble bathtubs and countertops, Nancy wanted the master bathroom to be perfect. Nancy’s close friend and collaborator on the dollhouse, Jill Chase, recalls, “Nancy was having a hard time finding a nice looking mini roll of toilet paper. She rejected many as not good enough. We finally found one she liked and we got home and opened the house to put it in, only to realize that that bathroom didn’t have a toilet! We laughed and felt silly then decided that they must use a chamber pot.”

Nancy's Royal Bathroom- Furnished

Stay tuned for more fun stories like this one in the coming weeks.

Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum

Posted in Academic Programs, Behind-the-Scenes, Decorative Arts, Dollhouse, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments


Wanna Fight About It?

Last week when I was in London to present a lecture to the English Ceramic Circle, I had the opportunity to revisit the British Museum, one of my favorite museums in the world. As always, I made a beeline to the classical galleries, particularly those focusing on ancient Greece and Rome. Many of the works there remind me that even though thousands of years may have passed the needs of humans remain basically unchanged, including the need to be entertained.

Although I am not a fan of violence, I was struck by a wonderful pair of ancient Roman ceramic boxers (a popular form of entertainment in Greek and Roman times). The British Museum’s boxers have quite a lot in common with fighters dating much later in Winterthur’s collection. Below are the British Museum’s unglazed earthenware boxers, which date to a century or so before the time of Christ.

African boxers, terracotta, Roman, possibly made in Italy, 2nd or 1st century BCE. British Museum GR 1852.4-1.1, 2

African boxers, terracotta, Roman, possibly made in Italy, 2nd or 1st century BCE. British Museum GR 1852.4-1.1, 2

According to the British Museum’s caption, “The older, balding boxer is staggering back from an upper cut. Their gloves are Roman caestus, equipped with balls of lead to give a brutal blow.” Nearby text reminds us that back when such objects were being made, boxing was not only important as a spectator sport but it also was an essential skill learned by soldiers.

Nearly 2,000 years later, ceramic boxers were being produced and admired in England.  Unlike the apparently anonymous ancient fighters, the Staffordshire pearlware examples at Winterthur portray important boxing matches that were reported in newspapers. The two single (free-standing) boxers shown below represent the English bare-knuckle fighters Tom Cribb and Tom Molyneux. The inspirations for the models may be an 1812 print celebrating the duo’s famous second fight.

Tom Cribb and Tom Molyneaux, earthenware (pearlware), Staffordshire, England, 1812–15. Gift of Thomas N. and A. Pat Bernard 2002.30.39.1-.2

Tom Cribb and Tom Molyneaux, earthenware (pearlware), Staffordshire, England, 1812–15. Gift of Thomas N. and A. Pat Bernard 2002.30.39.1-.2

Winterthur’s second boxing group commemorates an 1860 match between New Yorker John Carmel Heenan and the champion of England, Tom Sayers. Although the ceramic fighters might not look all that ferocious, the boxing match was considered by many to be the most savage of the 1800s. The fight ended in a draw, and both fighters were awarded a champion’s belt.

John Heenan and Tom Sayers, earthenware (white), Staffordshire, England, 1860–65. Inscribed “HEENAN.SAYERS.” Gift of Thomas N. and A. Pat Bernard 2002.30.41

John Heenan and Tom Sayers, earthenware (white), Staffordshire, England, 1860–65. Inscribed “HEENAN.SAYERS.” Gift of Thomas N. and A. Pat Bernard 2002.30.41

The figures shown here were not the only ones to portray such subjects, and similar themes remain popular through modern times. Just go online and do a search on Mohammed Ali and ceramics and you’ll see what I mean!

Post by Leslie B. Grigsby, Senior Curator of Ceramics & Glass, Winterthur

 

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A Sticky Situation in the Doll “Mansion”

You were introduced to Winterthur’s doll “mansion” in our previous blog post, and already the museum visitors have expressed lots of anticipation for the doll house’s Yuletide debut in 2016. Before that can happen, however, various conservation problems must first be solved.

The prevalence of Blu-tack and wax in many rooms and on many miniatures is one such problem. Blu-Tack was used because of its superior ability to hold heavy objects of many materials firmly in place. In the long-term, however, Blu-Tack poses the risk of staining porous materials due to the mineral oil within it and causing surface loss in addition to collateral damage if the adhesive fails. Wax, while collecting dust and grime, is generally regarded as having fewer deterioration-related risks. For this reason, we intend to remove as much Blu-Tack and old wax as possible, replacing it with the minimum amount of fresh wax. In most cases, objects can be held as firmly with wax as Blu-Tack, but miniature paintings on the walls, for example, will require a stronger adhesive in the absence of Blu-Tack. Since each piece of wall decor is different, ranging from lightweight textiles to metal racks filled with pans and even antique daguerreotypes, we are currently researching and testing a variety of methods appropriate for each case.

Rm 11- Royal Bathroom - Excessive Blu-Tack on walls Rm 17- Nancy's Bedrrom - Blu Tack on sensative wall paper

Another issue is the lifting and cracking of the inlaid wood veneer floor in the living room, along with more minor cracking in two other rooms and the complete separation of the linoleum-like flooring in the kitchen. In the coming week, we hope to identify which adhesive will work best for each material and issue, so that we can implement them before commencing reinstallation.

Rm 3- Living Room- Lifting Inlaid wood floors (2)

An additional material of interest in the dollhouse is sterling silver. Many of the decorative serving objects and utensils do not simply seem like silver, but, in fact, are silver, most of which were fashioned by Peter Acquisto and Guglielmo Cini, and some of which were special order items. Unfortunately, since silver has a tendency to tarnish and a number of the objects are already showing signs of such, we had to address the problem thinking long term. We could certainly polish the silver, but since disturbing the installed furnishing could compromise the preservation of the house as a whole, we have decided, after research and consultation, to lacquer the silver. This will allow the pieces to remain untarnished for decades to come.

Room6-4- dinning room table setting close up Room3-7- close up of tea set

All of these treatments and more, usually performed in conservation labs that are out of the public eye, will be done in an accessible space near the entry of the Galleries. We encourage you to come visit us, stay a while, and chat with us as you observe our progress in readying the dollhouse for its Yuletide debut.

Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum

Posted in Academic Programs, Art Conservation, Decorative Arts, Design, House, Students & Alumni, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments


A Doll “Mansion”

Doll House overall front view resized (2)Often the first reaction upon seeing Nancy McDaniel’s dollhouse is a gasp. It is a 6-foot-by-3-foot, slate- roofed, fully electrified dollhouse inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse in England, it was left to Winterthur when Nancy McDaniel passed away recently.

We are lucky enough to have a summer internship to conserve, clean, and reassemble the dollhouse to put on display for Winterthur visitors.

With only 10 weeks to accomplish the damage assessment, treatment of the house and objects, reinstallation of all the objects, and research, we knew we needed to create a comprehensive plan.

One of our initial concerns was the potential pest infestation of the many textiles that had been in boxes for nearly a year. We knew that they needed to be retrieved and treated via the CO2 or freeing chambers; however, they were scattered across 15 boxes. While the boxes themselves were well labeled and organized, some individual items within them were not. We knew if we simply started digging in, the organization painstakingly put in place by the art handlers would have been lost, and it would have been easy to lose and/or mix up objects. In an effort to avoid such a catastrophe, we decided that a written and visual inventory would be the best course of action to take first. This allowed us to accomplish four things simultaneously: compile a master list of all the objects and their locations in the dollhouse; evaluate each item closely in order to identify any potential future treatments; set aside the textiles, which threatened to introduce pests into the museum environment, into sealed plastic bins as we came upon them; and gain a familiarity with the objects and rooms that we will be working on for the next nine weeks.

We are happy to report that after two and a half weeks, we have finished both a written and visual inventory of the dollhouse and all the objects and sent a portion of the textiles to be treated. The final document contains an astounding 722 entries, some of which represent multiple objects. Moving forward we plan to treat and clean the house first before focusing on the conservation and installation of the individual rooms. We have been, and will continue to be, working in a space that is viewable to the public on most weekdays from 10:00 am–5:00 pm in the Gallery Theater. Everyone is welcome, and we encourage you to come visit, watch, and ask as many questions as you can think of.

The house will be on display beginning November 19 and, just like Winterthur, it will be decorated for Yuletide this holiday season!

This is the first in a series of posts detailing the process to conserve and reassemble the dollhouse.

Post by Karissa Muratore and Amanda Kasman, University of Delaware Art Conservation undergraduates doing a summer internship at Winterthur Museum

Posted in Academic Programs, Art Conservation, Behind-the-Scenes, Conservation, Decorative Arts, galleries, House, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments


All in the Family

Needlework picture, Mary Perrin (1737–1815), Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1750, wool, silk, and metallic thread on linen. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.66.

Needlework picture, Mary Perrin (1737–1815), Roxbury, Massachusetts, 1750, wool, silk, and metallic thread on linen. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle 2016.66.

Genealogical research on our collection objects often yields surprising insight into the craftsmen, the consumer, and the context in which they mingled. In preparation for our recently opened exhibition, Embroidery: The Language of Art, we explored the family trees of several of our female artists. Unlike most objects from early America, needlework is rife with fodder for such investigations: silken stitches often spell out familial relationships, dates, and locations. Winterthur even has several examples where needlework served as a “family register,” noting over a span of time the life and death dates of individuals who were significant to the maker. For example, Mary Evan’s sampler, begun when she was 10 years old, includes her own death date of November 11, 1888. She intentionally left a blank spot in the composition for a family member to bring the record full circle. Mary’s descendants cared for this register for a century, at which time they generously donated it to Winterthur to share with our visitors.

sampler

This January, Winterthur acquired, at auction, a canvaswork picture associated with a group of needlework made in the Boston, Massachusetts, area. This piece, which retains its original frame, depicts a genteel couple at a tea table in a gently rolling landscape dotted with a house, windmill, and even a beehive. Attached to the back of the frame were a number of notes that referenced late 19th- and 20th-century individuals. With this information, we were able to determine how the object moved within the family over the generations. Several gaps in the line were left, which we pieced together using wills, census records, family and local histories, and even newspaper notices. The Perrin, Bradlee, and Crowninshield names were repeated over the centuries, an enduring link to deep, proudly held roots in the Boston area.

In fact, this discovery even led to a surprising connection to one of our exhibition staff members, Amy Marks Delaney, who helped bring the Embroidery: The Language of Art –exhibition to life. When Amy heard about the newly acquired needlework, she quickly realized that she was a descendant of the same Perrin family! While her ancestor was Mary Perrin’s uncle and the object may never have been in the care of that particular family line, Amy’s unexpected link to the Perrin needlework is, nevertheless, a great example of the connections across time and space that genealogy can bring to life.

Provenance of Mary Perrin Needlework Picture

Mary Perrin (May) 1737–1815

To her son

Perrin May 1767–1844

To his daughter

Mary Perrin May (Bradlee) 1815–1877

To her daughter

Alice Bradlee (Chase) 1846–1925

To her niece

 Katharine Bradlee Crowninshield (Davis) 1874–1935

To her daughter

 Katharine Bradlee Davis (Hammond) 1910–

  To

Elizabeth Crowninshield (Hammond)

Estate sold at Northeast Auction 1993

Collection of Anita & Erwin Schorsch

Purchased by Winterthur at Sotheby’s auction January 2016

An associated book, Embroidery: The Language of Art, is available for purchase at the Winterthur Bookstore.

Post by Lea C. Lane, Elizabeth and Robert Owens Curatorial Fellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking West: The Frontier Myth in Currier and Ives’s America

Frances Flora Bond Palmer, Across the Continent. “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” 1868, Hand-colored lithograph, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Kathy and Ted Fernberger, 2009, 2009-215-2

Frances Flora Bond Palmer, Across the Continent. “Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.” 1868, Hand-colored lithograph, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Kathy and Ted Fernberger, 2009, 2009-215-2

The American West is seen in the eyes of many as a place of freedom, expression of youth, and the location of some of the most beautiful natural spaces the country has left to offer. The infamous landscapes of Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks have attempted to preserve portions of the West’s natural beauty for posterity, along with the wildlife that once roamed there. Millions of visitors travel to these places every year in an attempt to experience the West as it once was. However mythical this view might be in relation to reality, it belongs to a visual history dating back to America’s formation, which many artists have endorsed through drawing, painting, photography, and print, including Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait (1819–1905).

Tait was born in 1819 outside of Manchester, England, and immigrated to New York in 1850 following his marriage to Mary Ann Cardwell.¹ During this time there was major cultural upheaval in the United States. Outside of growing internal tensions over slavery, the U.S. government was struggling to expand westward against the sovereign indigenous tribes that still inhabited the region. Popular support for this expansion was garnered through the idea of Manifest Destiny, conceived of in 1845 by John L. O’Sullivan and visualized in the Currier & Ives’s print Across the Continent. Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.

Tait began working with the printing firm Currier & Ives in 1852 and soon became one of its most renowned artists. He was best known for his idyllic sporting and animal prints along with his paintings of the outdoors; ² however,  his representations of the West in particular serve as a helpful view into Eastern conceptions of the frontier during the nineteenth century, when many American citizens held the progressive hopes of their nation. Yet if we look more deeply at Tait’s images and their place within imagery of the West, we can see their romantic vision as a frontier myth built on promoting expansion.

Since Tait never actually travelled to the West himself, his representations of it are a combination of the literary, oral, and artistic descriptions he encountered. Tait’s sympathies with the artist George Catlin (1796–1872) can be seen in the latter’s description of the frontier:

“But who has seen the vivid lightnings, and heard the roaring thunder of the rolling conflagration which sweeps over the deep-clad prairies of the West? Who has dashed, on his wild horse, through an ocean of grass, with the raging tempest at his back, rolling over the land its swelling waves of liquid fire?” ³

Catlin’s words come to life in Tait’s romanticized Life on the Prairie. The Buffalo Hunt, where white men in buckskins can be seen on horseback chasing bison through rolling fields of grass.

 Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Life on the Prairie- The Buffalo Hunt, 1862, Hand-colored lithograph. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Gift of Charles K. Davis 1953.0155.074.


Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Life on the Prairie- The Buffalo Hunt, 1862, Hand-colored lithograph. Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, Gift of Charles K. Davis 1953.0155.074.

The artist’s embrace of such frontier descriptions is reflected in a self-portrait taken circa 1850. Tait dressed himself in garb reminiscent of Davy Crockett, a man widely known in the period as the “King of the Frontier.” Tait’s multicultural outfit (Americanized buckskin shirt, plains-beaded pouch and moccasins, felt hat, and rifle) illustrate the artist’s romanticized view of the Western frontier as a playground where men played dress up and colonial power had already been asserted.

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Self-Portrait, ca.1850, Photographic print, Adirondack Museum, 1985.059.0002.

Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Self-Portrait, ca.1850, Photographic print, Adirondack Museum, 1985.059.0002.

Yet the idea of the frontier that appears in Tait’s self-portrait came at the decimation of everything that was already there. The artist’s 1862 Life on the Prairie becomes eerily foreshadowing when one is reminded that by the time of the Plains Indian Wars in the 1880s nearly all of the free-roaming bison in the United States had been killed. Their numbers went from an estimated 30 million in the mid-1800s to less than 400 by 1893.

At the time of Tait’s print’s production, the frenzy for bison and their hides had reached such a high that white hunters were severely depleting the once-massive herds, in turn undermining the tribes whose lives depended on them for physical and spiritual sustenance. This connection between Native Americans and bison became a visual trope as the century came to a close. Famous landscape painter Albert Bierstadt took up the subject in his well-known painting The Last Buffalo from 1888. In it he composes a prairie scene in which herds of buffalo are being hunted by Native American men on horseback. By this time, both groups were considered on the brink of extinction by the white civilization that helped to destroy them. Bierstadt’s painting, along with Tait’s print, are then best understood as artistic compositions combining memory, myth, and the progressive hopes of a nation.

Albert Bierstadt, The Last Buffalo, 1888, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Gift of Mary Stewart Bierstadt, 09.12.

Albert Bierstadt, The Last Buffalo, 1888, oil on canvas, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Gift of Mary Stewart Bierstadt, 09.12.

Don’t miss the upcoming exhibition Lasting Impressions: The Artists of Currier & Ives in the Galleries September 17, 2016–January 8, 2017 at Winterthur Museum.

Post by Kaila Schedeen, Graduate Curatorial Assistant

¹ Warder H. Cadbury, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait: Artist in the Adirondacks (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1986), 14.

² Harry T. Peters, Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People (New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1929), 1:108.

³ George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians, 4th ed. (London: D. Bogue, 1841), 2:18.

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Flowery Thoughts – People and Museums Working Together!

The first two cases of Flowery Thoughts.

A glimpse of Flowery Thoughts: Ceramic Vases & Floral Ornament at Winterthur, on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art May 28 through September 5, 2016..

The exhibition Flowery Thoughts: Ceramic Vases & Floral Ornament at Winterthur is another in a series of loan exhibitions created by Winterthur Museum for its neighbor, the Brandywine River Museum of Art. This year’s exhibition will be unveiled at the BRMA’s 45th annual Brandywine Antiques Show (May 28–30) and will remain in the museum’s galleries through September 5.

Thomas Padon, director of the BRMA, first discussed a possible show with me back in December, and we almost immediately decided that a springtime theme was just the thing. The topic also was appropriate since the gallery we chose overlooks a beautiful, natural setting along the Brandywine River.

Winterthur's Matthew Stiles takes a break from writing 'object move' work orders.

Winterthur’s Matthew Stiles takes a break from writing ‘object move’ work orders.

Ultimately, I selected fifty Winterthur ceramic objects, variously made in Europe, America, or China from the early 1700s through modern times.

Matthew and BRMA's Stephen Ruszkowski and Gail Stanislow during case and block installation.

Matthew and BRMA’s Stephen Ruszkowski and Gail Stanislow during case and block installation.

The works range from flower vases to objects displaying painted or printed floral motifs to those with delicately hand-modeled three-dimensional flowers. (I also couldn’t resist featuring one of my favorite design elements, bugs!)

Once Thomas and I had done the easy part, picking an exhibition theme, the hard work began. Do you have any idea how many people are involved in creating even a modest-sized exhibition? And as it was a loan show, we needed coordination between two separate museum staffs.

Winterthur’s Leslie Grigsby during object installation.

Yes, I picked the objects and designed the show, but Winterthur registrar Katie Orr tracked all of the comings and goings of the objects as they wended their way around Winterthur (and eventually up the road to BRMA), and her colleagues completed detailed condition reports. Art handlers not only gathered the objects from throughout the museum but transported those needing a conservator’s care or special mounts over to our Objects Lab, while other pieces needed to go to the photo studio. Everything was then returned to the staging area for Matthew Stiles and several helpers to carefully pack all fifty quite-fragile objects.

BRMA's Stephen Ruszkowski places the final wall panel as a friend looks on from the distance.

BRMA’s Stephen Ruszkowski places the final wall panel as a friend looks on from the distance.

So, was the BRMA staff sitting and twiddling their thumbs while Winterthur was a hive of activity? Nope! Exhibition Manager Bethany Engle and Preparator Stephen Ruszkowski hit the ground running, forwarding the gallery measurements to me and checking what was available in terms of cases and blocks (each eventually being individually wrapped in fabric) to support the objects. My label copy had to be edited before it was sent on to the graphic designer, and the BRMA’s registrars coordinated with ours to ensure a safe “landing” when we arrived to install the show.

The result? Well, I suppose I’d be bragging if I said it all turned out pretty darned well… so instead I simply invite you to come and enjoy the exhibition yourself!

An overall view of the Flowery Thoughts exhibition.

An overall view of Flowery Thoughts.

I send my sincere thanks to the following people who helped make this show happen:

From Winterthur: Katie Orr, Lauren Fair, William Donnelly, Lea Lane, Matthew Stiles, Lonnie Dobbs, Betsy Keene, Laszlo Bodo, Kathan Lynch, Nat Caccamo, and Raun Townsley.

From Brandywine River Museum of Art: Thomas Padon, Bethany Engel, Sara Buehler, Amanda Burdan, Stephen Ruszkowski, Donna Gormel, Amanda Shields, Gail Stanislow, Carol Ellis and Joshua Schnapf; also Darren Carcary (Resolve) and Bill Ryder (Pop Dot).

Leslie B. Grigsby is Senior Curator of Ceramics & Glass at Winterthur Museum.

 

Click here to learn more about visiting the exhibition.

For more details about current and upcoming exhibitions and programs at Winterthur, click here.

Posted in American Culture Studies, antiques, art collections, Art Conservation, Behind-the-Scenes, Ceramics, Conservation, Decorative Arts, Design, exhibition, Exhibitions, galleries, museum collection, Students & Alumni, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Shake Your Groove Thing

Modern Dancing, by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, 1914. Winterthur Library, John and Carolyn Grossman Collection

Modern Dancing, by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, 1914. Winterthur Library, John and Carolyn Grossman Collection

Get ready to tap your toes with our newest online exhibit, Shall We Dance? Three Centuries of Dance in America.  The beauty of virtual shows is the ability to breathe new life into a previous exhibit with supplemental material and preserve it in a new format for people to enjoy for years to come.  When I first revisited the original exhibit’s label copy, my initial thought was to follow the same arrangement (material by century to show sweeping stylistic changes), but I realized quickly that a new approach might be more compelling to present online.  While keeping many items from the original show, I reviewed, researched, and added new material from our extensive museum and library collections.  The virtual show offers new interpretative sections on learning how to behave at and what to wear to dances as well as the du Pont family’s dancing activities.

Although the exhibit features numerous items from the 1700s and 1800s, for this blog post I thought it might be interesting to focus on the most recent items (at least in our world) from the 1900s to emphasize the strength of library collections from this period. And, given the popularity of shows such as Dancing with the Stars, I thought it might be fun to focus on the international dance sensations Vernon and Irene Castle.

Modern Dancing, by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, 1914. Winterthur Library, John and Carolyn Grossman Collection

Modern Dancing, by Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Castle, 1914. Winterthur Library, John and Carolyn Grossman Collection

In the original exhibit, a few items were displayed featuring the Castles, whose influence was felt throughout the 20th century. They popularized new dances by combining ballroom steps with those of early ragtime and jazz. New material acquired since 2006 has been added, such as the 1914 book Modern Dancing by the Castles wherein they used film stills to demonstrate the many dances they invented and transformed.  Another new acquisition, sheet music from a Broadway production, helps to further round out the history of the Castles, who dominated the 1910s by appearing in movies and plays, writing dance manuals, promoting products, and teaching dance at their New York studio, Castle House.  Vernon’s untimely death in 1918 ended their brilliant run, but their lives were immortalized in the 1939 film The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle starring another exceptional dance team, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  The Castles also taught lessons to a teenager who turned to dance as a way of overcoming his shyness.  Quick learner that he was, he was soon hired as a dance instructor by the Castles and went on to sell mail-order dance classes with footprint instructions, star in a TV show for ten years, and open and franchise dance schools that are still going strong today.  His name?  Arthur Murray.

Let’s Dance, by Arthur Murray, ca. 1937. Winterthur Library, Saul Zalesch Collection of American Ephemera

Let’s Dance, by Arthur Murray, ca. 1937. Winterthur Library, Saul Zalesch Collection of American Ephemera

Here’s a fun, little challenge for the readers, see if you can find the most modern item in the show.  Here’s a hint – remember the TV show Hullabaloo?

Visit our website to view our online exhibitions and digital collaborative projects at: http://www.winterthur.org/?p=986.

Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur Library

Posted in Du Pont Family, Ephemera, Exhibitions, Library, museum collection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment