Friday, June 6, 2008

Weaving the Threads of an Eclectic Collection

Visitors often do not know what to expect when they ring the doorbell at The Alice T. Miner Museum. By the time our tours reach the third floor, guests frequently ask how it came to be that Alice built a collection of such variety and depth.

Colonial Revival influenced collectors during Alice’s time were, among other interests, motivated by a wish to preserve the Nation’s early history. They valued quality hand-made objects and tools over machine-made objects, exhibiting a longing to capture the spirit of the past. As these collectors and the Movement itself grew, the ideals embodied in the Colonial Revival Movement became internalized as an emotional, spiritual and intellectual heritage. Collectors no longer limited themselves to decorative arts made in the Colonies, but appreciated quality hand-made decorative and fine art objects from around the world.

While influenced by the Colonial Revival Movement and by other collectors, Alice T. Miner was a sophisticated collector in her own right. She embraced the decorative arts – ceramics, furniture, textiles, and glass. Her collecting did not stop with objects of everyday life, however. The museum also holds smaller collections of beautiful objects and art. Alice acquired her Japanese woodblock prints in the 1920s through her friend Emma B. Hodge. Her friend Frank W. Gunsaulus advised Alice in collecting some wonderful books and manuscripts.

Frank W. Gunsaulus (Left) and Emma B. Hodge (2nd from Right) at Heart's Delight Farm ca. 1917

Over the past few years the connections between Alice and her friends Emma B. Hodge and Frank W. Gunsaulus have become clearer to those of us researching the museum collection. Dr. Gunsaulus, a Presbyterian minister, was a collector of woven coverlets, Japanese prints, rare books and manuscripts. His daughter, Helen C. Gunsaulus, was Curator of the Buckingham collection of Japanese prints at The Art Institute in Chicago. Emma B. Hodge was a collector of pottery, quilts, Valentines, samplers, paintings and Japanese woodblock prints. Their common interests are revealed as we learn more about these Chicago friends. The strongest threads between them lay in their embrace of the Colonial Revival and Arts & Crafts Movements, as well as their many connections to The Chicago Art Institute.

Helen Gunsaulus (Right) and Friends at Heart's Delight Farm, 1917

Here in Chazy, Alice is remembered as she appeared in the 1940s – an elderly woman who stayed close to home. Viewing her entire life and collection from this perspective can limit one’s appreciation of the scope of her experience, however. As evidenced in our archives of travel photos, letters and postcards from around the world, Alice T. Miner traveled far and wide in her lifetime. Yes, she ventured across frozen Lake Champlain on collecting trips with her friends, yet she also journeyed widely across the United States and throughout Europe.

The influence and aesthetic for her collection came primarily from her other home, Chicago, not merely through buying furniture from the neighbor’s old barn. This influence is what you will see when you tour The Alice T. Miner Museum, for within these walls is an eclectic collection of wonderful depth and substance!

Alice T. Miner ca. 1895

1 comment:

  1. Amanda,

    The blog is a wonderful idea. It make the Alice feel like a family affair. Even more thrilling is your intimate and creative way of presenting the museum and all that it embodies.