Published: October 1, 2019
Photos Courtesy Laura Beach and Yale University Art Gallery
ORANGE, CONN. – Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) officially unveiled new state-of-the-art facilities housing its working library of more than 1,300 examples of American furniture, clocks, wood-turned sculpture, tools, didactic displays and archival resources on September 9. The Scholars’ Day program of lectures, tours and demonstrations coincided with the 60th anniversary of the American Furniture Study Center, now named for Leslie P. and George H. Hume, BA 1969.
Patricia E. Kane, the museum’s Friends of American Arts curator of American decorative arts, led the daylong event, which featured talks by YUAG’s director of collections Burrus Harlow and Move Team members Jason DeBlock, Nancy Valley, Vicki Onofrio, Grant Johnston, Thomas Philips and Kevin Wigginton.
“The project commenced on September 2018 and was completed in July 2019. The task was to move all of what was in the basement at 149 York Street to the new space. It entailed a great deal of planning,” Harlow said of the Furniture Study, started by former curator Meyric R. Rogers in 1959.
“This move achieved an important goal for us. It got us into a much better space. It provides better access to collections. We were able to incorporate about 30 pieces of architectural woodwork that had never before been displayed. And the furniture is on movable pallets, which makes everything more accessible,” Kane told visitors.
YUAG director Stephanie Wiles credited Kane’s outstanding contributions to the American arts at Yale, noting the curator’s remarkable half-century tenure. “It’s an extraordinary moment for the art gallery to have someone overseeing this project with incredible insight, and a belief in scholarship, research and building the collection, and now having this open today. Pat, it’s all because of your dedication that this happened,” Wiles concluded.
The Furniture Study houses artifacts dating from 1650 to the present. Roughly half of the objects on view are from the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection. The installation allows visitors to examine furniture in the round and to compare pieces side by side. Most of the furniture is organized chronologically by form. Scattered throughout the two-level installation are interpretive displays highlighting various aspects of craft practice.
The day also provided a tour of the newly installed Bass Sack Family Archive, named in honor of Anne T. and Robert M. Bass, BA 1971. It contains the business records of the antiquary Israel Sack, Inc, foremost specialists in American furniture for much of the Twentieth Century. Much of the archive consists of 10,000 black and white photographs, which can be searched online through Yale University Library’s Digital Collections.
Lithuanian immigrant Israel Sack started a furniture-repair business in Boston in 1903 before relocating to New York City. The dealer was later joined in the operation by his sons Harold, Albert and Robert. Israel Sack, Inc closed in 2002. YUAG acquired the Albert Sack Legacy Archives in 2011 and has since added more than 17,000 color slides assembled by the firm and given by Lee Sack in memory of her husband, Robert Sack.
Rounding out Scholars’ Day were tours of the Margaret and Angus Wurtele Study Center, an open-storage facility containing 37,000 examples of silver, ceramics, glass and other objects from YUAG’s collection; and the museum’s conservation laboratory. Presenters included Joan Parcher, Allan Breed, Kirtland H. Crump, Mark Dudley and Stephen Latta.
Tours and Access
The Hume Furniture Study and the Bass Sack Family Archive are open by appointment to individuals and groups of fewer than 18 people from Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm. To schedule a visit, contact the Department of American Decorative Arts at 203-432-0632 or email@example.com.
Weekly free public tours of the Furniture Study are offered on Fridays at 12:20 pm. Free parking is available at 900 West Campus Drive, or visitors can take the express shuttle from outside YUAG at 201 York Street, departing at noon. Visitors will be met in the lobby of 900 West Campus Drive and escorted to the Furniture Study. Following the tour, the return shuttle departs West Campus at 1:30 pm.
Special thematic tours are planned for several Fridays this fall at 12:20 pm. On September 27, Kane will lead “Tulipmania: The Seventeenth Century Joined Furniture of the Connecticut River Valley”; on October 18, Alexandra Ward will lead “Saving the Best for Last: Furniture Finishes in the Colonial and Federal Periods”; on November 15, Eric Litke will lead “Shop Revolutions: Woodturning and the Development of the Lathe in Furniture Production”; and on December 13, John Stuart Gordon will lead “Master Builders: Furniture and Architecture.” For details, visit www.artgallery.yale.edu/calendar.
“The relocation of this treasured furniture collection and the incorporation of the Sack archives represents a real transformation for the gallery as a leading destination and resource for the study of American furniture,” Kane said.
Founded in 1832, Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest college art museum in the United States. Its collections consist of 250,000 ancient to contemporary objects. The museum is at 1111 Chapel Street in New Haven. For information, 203-432-0600 or www.artgallery.yale.edu.
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