Published: July 8, 2003
The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities’ (SPNEA) renowned collection of fine and decorative arts will be on view for the general public when the national tour of “Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy” opens at the Colby College Museum of Art in Maine on July 16. The show will run through October 27.
Since 1910 SPNEA has compiled the largest collection of New England antiquities from the Seventeenth Century onward. The Colby College Museum of Art is the only New England venue on the exhibition’s national tour; an opening reception will be held at the museum on Wednesday, July 16, from 3 to 4:30 pm. It is open to the public and free of charge.
The exhibit of nearly 200 fine and decorative arts objects forms a picture of life in mid-Seventeenth to mid-Twentieth Century New England. Objects include furniture and photographs, costumes and jewelry, and paintings and textiles that chronicle the history of more than 300 years of life in New England. From a 1735 high chest from Boston to a 1891 pastoral photograph to an 1830 wedding dress, each tells a story about the changing tastes in America, says Daniel Rosenfeld, the Carolyn Muzzy director of the Colby College Museum of Art.
Each rdf_Description in “Cherished Possessions” was selected based on its ability to convey a story in the context of the region and the nation. Items include a tall clock that has stood in the parlor of the Sayward Wheeler House in York Harbor, Maine, for more than 200 years and a Navajo rug purchased in Wyoming in 1906 by Jane A. Tucker of Wiscasset, Maine. The only two known surviving American-made wax figures from 1720 to 1725 will be shown in their original glass bell jars on wooden stands.
The elegant, fish-shaped, silver sewing kit owned by Abigail Quincy, wife of the patriot Josiah Quincy, conceals a utilitarian purpose — it contains a small pair of scissors and a knife for sewing. The kit reflects the useful work required of men and women of every class in New England, as well as the relative comfort in which Quincy lived. Other objects in the exhibit include a japanned high chest that was twice rescued from house fires before 1770, a girandole shaped like the Mt Auburn Cemetery chapel in Cambridge, Mass., and small butterfly stools from 1956.
“Cherished Possessions” is organized around thematic sections including religion, community, the Revolution, art and industry, New Englanders abroad, slavery and abolitionism, and modernism and antiquarianism.
The show will travel through 2005 with stops in Fort Worth, Honolulu, New York City and Grand Rapids, Mich. The national tour of the exhibition is made possible by Fidelity investments through a grant from the Fidelity Foundation.
SPNEA, headquartered in Boston, was founded to protect New England’s cultural and architectural heritage. A leader in preservation, research and programming, SPNEA collects and preserves historic buildings, landscapes and objects. Its full collection includes more than 100,000 objects and is the largest assemblage of New England antiquities in the country. “Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy” is SPNEA’s first major traveling exhibition.
Founded in 1959, the Colby College Museum of Art has a diverse permanent collection that includes Eighteenth Century American portraits, Nineteenth Century landscapes and a wide selection of Twentieth Century and Contemporary American artwork. The museum houses the John Marin Collection, the largest holding of Marin’s work in any academic museum in the country. The museum also features the Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Art of Alex Katz, with 10,000 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to Katz’s paintings and prints. Colby’s permanent collection includes works by John Singleton Copley, Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Cole, George Inness, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Fairfield Porter, Marsden Hartley, Rockwell Kent, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt and Robert Rauschenberg.
The museum is at 5600 Mayflower Drive. For information, 207-872-3228 or www.colby.edu/museum/spnea.
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