Published: January 31, 2017
Judy Livingston Loto is director of development for the Portsmouth Historical Society (PHS), executive director of the Antiques Dealers’ Association of America (ADA), proprietor of Russack & Loto Books, an antiquarian book business she acquired in 2009, wife, mother of daughters aged 10 and 12, Girl Scout troop leader, school volunteer and, in her spare time, enjoys gardening, cooking and hiking. Her past employment includes positions at the Canterbury Shaker Village where she assisted Scott Swank with the publication Shaker Art, Life and Architecture: Hands to Work, Hearts to God, the Litchfield (Conn.) Historical Society, Strawbery Banke and the Laconia, N.H., Historical and Museum Society. She was president of the ADA for four years, prior to becoming its executive director. She graduated with a BA in English literature and early American history, with a minor in French from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in 1996 and completed her master’s from the University of Delaware as part of the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture (now called the Winterthur Program in American Culture).
How did your interest in antiques and history develop?
Both my mother and father had a love of history, and as kids we were always visiting outdoor museums like Old Sturbridge Village, Colonial Williamsburg, the Shaker villages and others. My grandmother, on my mother’s side, was an antiques dealer, so I never knew if the stuff that was in the house when I left for school would be there when I got home. My dorm room in college was furnished with antiques, so I guess you could say I grew up with the interest. It was not until college, though, that one of my professors at UNH really got me hooked on studying history, and that made all the difference in my career choices.
Tell us about the Portsmouth Historical Society
The PHS, founded in 1917, operates two facilities. The John Paul Jones House, a National Historic Landmark, was the residence of Jones, who many call the “Father of the American Navy,” while he supervised the building of his ship Ranger at the nearby shipyard of John Langdon. Since 2009, we have also operated Discover Portsmouth, which houses exhibition galleries, a museum shop and a welcome center. The building is unique. In the late Nineteenth Century, two early historic houses were incorporated into a larger, more modern building that was home of the Portsmouth public library until 2006, when the city built a new library and solicited proposals for the reuse of its original building. Richard Candee, a highly respected professor and historian, proposed the present use of the building and saw the project to fruition. It has the only large-scale exhibition space in the city and we mount three to four formal exhibitions each year, devoted to educating people of all ages and backgrounds about the history, arts and culture of Portsmouth and the greater Seacoast.
Your next exhibition?
“Four Centuries of Portsmouth Furniture” will open in April. It will include, as the name implies, a selection of furniture made and used in Portsmouth from the Seventeenth to Twenty-First Centuries. At the same time, another one of our galleries will exhibit the works of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters, showcasing some wonderful contemporary creations by modern craftsmen. When that closes in midsummer, we’ll mount an exhibition of the works of nationally recognized Seacoast area sculptors.
What is the status of the ADA annual show?
The facility that we’ve used in Historic Deerfield for several years is undergoing major reconstruction, which requires us to find a suitable home for the next couple of years. That search is underway. We expect to make a decision shortly, so, ideally, this year’s show will go on, in cooperation with Historic Deerfield, as it has in the past. We will also continue with our online shows. We pioneered that type of show four years ago. They were envisioned as a way to showcase all our members, regardless of geographical location, and would also accommodate those members who do not do bricks-and-mortar shows. The advertising we did for the online shows drew numerous visitors to our website, which had more than 150,000 page views in 2016. Our next online show will be in May. The ADA does not profit from these shows. The participation fee covers the advertising costs, which include extensive use of social media. We’re also working on the annual dinner, conducted in conjunction with the Philadelphia Art and Antiques Show, where this year’s Award of Merit will go to Patricia Kane, curator of American decorative arts at the Yale University Art Gallery.
What are your upcoming plans for the antiquarian book business?
Over the course of 2017, I will transition the bulk of the book business to an online platform, which will allow me to be more competitive in the market and reach a broader national and international audience. In this day and age of immediate gratification, there is still an active market for my material, but people want to check and see if any given title is available immediately, while it is on their mind, and not later when they might forget. If that means 10:30 pm on a Wednesday night, then so be it.
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