Published: December 23, 2016
HARVARD, MASS. – The Fruitlands Museum presents “Comforts, Cures and Distractions: Winter at Fruitlands Museum” through March 26. The exhibition brings wintry New England into vivid focus with an assortment of art and artifacts from the museum’s diverse Transcendentalist, Shaker, Native American and landscape painting collections.
“As daylight hours shorten and temperatures plummet, snow transforms the landscape, blanketing it with hushed beauty,” says Fruitlands Curator Shana Dumont Garr. “During this season of winter wonder it becomes difficult to imagine how people made it through the cold weather in past centuries, before central heating and other modern conveniences. The stories and objects assembled in ‘Comforts, Cures and Distractions’ will connect visitors to moments spent during winters past, and historical attempts to foster good health and good cheer, offering glimpses into wintertime daily life in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century New England when life was often so much more challenging day-to-day.”
The array of items also tells a story about Fruitlands’ collection, with Shaker scarves and mittens, a Woodlands Native American water warmer, or mokuk, and two Nineteenth Century paintings of ice skaters that capture the dramatic transformation of the landscape. There are skates, sleds, and snowshoes dating from the era when 11-year-old Louisa May Alcott described playing in the snow when she and her family lived in the Fruitlands Farmhouse in 1834; as well as a pair of pink and white mittens that are believed to have been used by the Alcott girls.
“Seeing items drawn from Fruitlands Museum’s varied collections provides an opportunity to see how different communities solve the same enduring problems of how to stay warm, fed and entertained during the tough winter months,” adds Rebecca Migdal, who co-curated the exhibition with Dumont. Contemporary objects, such as dried herbs that follow Shaker healing traditions, a shovel, hat and sled will help round out stories that follow themes of either survival or celebration and connect winters past with winters present.
Also on view is “Find Your Park: National Parks In New England,” through March 19. The photography exhibition celebrates the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, and explores the cultural, historical and natural wonders of the national parks in New England.
Fruitlands is dedicated to New England history and art, and its properties include The Fruitlands Farmhouse, once home to the family of Louisa May Alcott and a National Historic landmark; The Shaker Museum, home to the largest archive of Harvard Shaker documents in the world; The Native American Museum, which houses a significant collection of artifacts that honor the spiritual presence and cultural history of the first Americans; The Art Museum, featuring a renowned collection of Hudson River School landscape paintings and Nineteenth Century vernacular portraits, along with rotating special exhibitions.
The museum is at 102 Prospect Hill Road. For more information, www.fruitlands.org or 978-456-3924.
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