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The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA)’s
renowned collection of fine and decorative arts is on view for the
general public with the national tour of Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy,
now at the Colby College Museum of Art in Maine. Since 1910 SPNEA has
compiled the largest collection of New England antiquities from the
17th century onward. The Colby College Museum of Art is the only New
England venue on the exhibition’s national tour.
The exhibit of nearly 200 fine and decorative arts objects forms a
picture of life in mid 17th- to mid 20th-century New England. Objects
include furniture and photographs, costumes and jewelry, and paintings
and textiles that chronicle the history of more than three hundred
years of life in New England. From a 1735 high chest from Boston to an
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 item 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 1720-1725 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. It will remain on view through October 27 at the Colby
museum and will travel through 2005 with stops in Fort Worth, Honolulu,
New York and Grand Rapids, Mich.
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 18th-century American portraits,
19th-century landscapes and a wide selection of 20th-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