Friday, November 27, 2009

Deck the Halls

On Thursday, December 10 The Alice will start the holiday season off in high style with a visit from Martha Gallagher, The Adirondack Harper. Martha is calling the show Deck the Halls and will play holiday favorites to help you get into the spirit of the season!

Because seating is limited and Martha is such a popular performer, reservations are required. Make sure you have a seat at this event - reserve by calling 518-846-7336, or send an email to

Martha Gallagher has been sharing her spirited, distinctive, and richly varied music with audiences for over 30 years. Known in the northeastern region of New York, where she makes her home, as The Adirondack Harper, she has performed with such luminaries as six-time Grammy winners, The Chieftains. Her extensive solo tours have taken her around the U.S. and into Canada, with several tours sponsored by The National Endowment for the Arts. She has been featured on numerous television and radio programs; most recent appearances include BBC Television, Northeast Public Radio, and Good Morning America.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Laborare est Orare

I wanted to share an article I recently read from our archives about William H. Miner from the "Bell Telephone News" April, 1921:

Work is Worship

"Laborare est orare,"
Sang a monk of olden time,
Sang it at the early matins,
Sang it at the vesper chime.
"Work is worship," toil is holy,
Let this thought our zeal inspire.
Every deed done well and nobly,
Burns with sacrificial fire.

"Laborare est orare,"
Watch-word of the olden time,
Let us take it for our motto,
Serving in this later time.
"Work is worship," God, my brothers,
Takes our toil as homage sweet,
And accepts as signs of worship,
Well worn hands and weary feet.

~ Thomas Handford

The poem reproduced here hangs in the office of William H. Miner, who has for eleven years been a director in the Illinois Bell Telephone Company.

When told that we intended to print the poem in The Bell Telephone News, Mr. Miner asked us to say that anyone who would take the thought expressed in these verses as the motive power of his life, would make himself a good citizen and solve the secret of true happiness.

You want to know more about Mr. Miner? We thought so, and we asked him to tell us, but he just smiled - he is a big man with a whole souled smile - and said, "Tell them I am just a farmer."

But what a farmer!

Many years ago he went into the field of invention and planted some good ideas which grew into a fine crop of appliances for increasing the security of and efficiency in railway operation and which are in use on almost all freight cars. The harvest was golden and plenteous.

Then he bought the farm on which he was born (This is not quite accurate - his father was born on the Chazy farm, but William was born in Wisconsin.) and the next one to that and then the next, and so on until he had more than 11,000 acres.

Then he proceeded to smash all records agriculturally. Not satisfied to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before, he put the minimum at six blades. His was the tallest and finest stand of corn; of wheat; of barley.

He bewildered the vegetable world by growing peas as big as onions and onions as big as melons.

Then he sowed a line of boulders across a valley and they grew into a great dam which caught the cool and glistening waters from a thousand springs in the hills, for the use of all of the people for miles about.

Then he broke into another field where children lived and where there were briers and weeds and poison ivy, and he ploughed them out and he made to grow a great schoolhouse next to the corn and wheat and barley.

Now every autumn there is a rich harvest of hundreds of the coming fathers, mother, citizens, statesmen, merchants, farmers, etc. - red-cheeked, bright-eyed youngsters, made sure and strong for the tasks and burdens that they must soon take on, by the helping hand of this great-hearted farmer.

Bountiful Lord - send us a few more farmers like this one!

This "Bell Telephone News" article was written before William and Alice Miner built Physicians' Hospital in Plattsburgh and The Alice T. Miner Museum in Chazy... I would love to read the farming analogies this author would have come up with to describe those two wonderful contributions to the North Country!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Engineer as Artist - 1588

When it comes to books we all have our preferences... I appreciate a story that draws me in so fully that I forget to eat dinner. And, as a visual artist, I am naturally enticed by drawings and prints. Since my first summer on the job, one of my favorite books here at The Alice has been Agostino Ramelli's, "Dell' Artificiose Machine". This tome first caught my eye because of it's strong cream-colored leather binding. It has simple, elegant, gold foliate designs on the spine framing the author, title, and "Parigi 1588." Bindings like this are relatively rare due to the skill and attention it takes to create them.

As soon as I opened the cover and looked at some of the illustrations within, my curiosity was piqued - I had to know more. The book is comprised primarily of images, with the text serving mainly to explain the objects that occupy well over a third of the pages. The illustrations, intricate in their detail and precision, are comprised of very detailed drawings of machines - among them are whimsical designs for water pumps, derricks, mills, bridges, and even looms!

The above image illustrates a very specialized library table Ramelli imagined. This revolving table is designed for someone who, suffering from gout, could not get around easily. In each compartment one would place a different book to study or enjoy!

Agostino Ramelli was a military engineer who obviously had an eye for artful detail. In his youth he studied mathematics and architecture. He was a product of the Renaissance, with its emphasis on education through classical sources combined with a search for realism and human emotion in art. The beautiful details Ramelli included in his works illuminate his desire to include a human element in each diagram. They often include whimsical spouts on illustrations of wells, generally in the shape of a mythical creature or animal head, with the water pouring out of the mouth. Many of the etchings involve humans - sometimes powering the machines by walking on huge wheels to turn the cogs and gears, or at other times collecting the water as it pours from the spout.

In the above illustration the creature's head that forms the spout even has flowers in its hair! Presumably, these would have been conceived of by Ramelli as carved stone sculptural elements serving to enhance the beauty of his machines.

Ramelli's work was one of the first of its kind to have drawings so finely and accurately detailed that you could actually construct the machines by using his images as a reference. He wrote this volume for the French royal court, thus the text is in French and Italian.

I encourage all engineers and aficionados of beautiful art alike to come to The Alice to see "Dell' Artificiose Machine" while it is currently on exhibit!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

@ The Alice - Friday, November 6

We have a fun evening in store for visitors and friends of The Alice coming up on the first Friday in November... Tim Hartnett will be joining us at 7:00 pm for an evening of song!

Tim was raised in a family that loved to sing songs together. At age 11 he was inspired by his sister Seana to learn guitar, along with the popular melodies of the day. Many a good time was had at the family home enjoying rousing sing-alongs with the friends who would frequently drop by.

I've enjoyed listening to Tim sing and play guitar many times over the years. Tim has an amazing memory and appreciation for music, lyrics, and songs - and he exudes a joy that flows through every performance. Perhaps you can think of a popular tune Tim won't know? That is a real challenge!

Tim’s musical resume is lengthy and varied. He has appeared as a solo performer, in several duets with women (including his sister Seana), and in numerous bands whose music ranges from country, blues, jazz, pop, and rock. Presently he performs with singer/songwriter Julie Canepa, the jazz/blues/pop combo PureBlue, and occasionally with the Zip City Blues Band.

Seating in the ballroom of The Alice is limited, it's a good idea to reserve your space by calling 846-7336, or sending an email to The show is $5 at the door, we hope you'll come to the museum on November 6 to relax and enjoy a true minstrel!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Carved in Stone... Cast in Bronze

I recently visited the cemetery in Chazy where Alice and William Miner are interred. Also buried at Riverview are William Miner's grandparents, Lydia and Clement Miner, and his Aunt Huldah and Uncle John Miner, who raised him after his parents died (Will's mother and father are buried in Wisconsin and Ohio respectively.) Entombed in the mausoleum with Alice and William is their infant child, William Miner, Jr., and Alice's three sisters Matilda, Bertha and Louise Trainer.

A note, written by William Miner in 1925, served to secure
the area for the Miner/Trainer mausoleum.

Riverview Cemetery was incorporated in 1920 but has been continually in use since 1811, possibly earlier. The land, and a few of the homes around the old cemetery, were purchased by William H. Miner in 1916, and he deeded the cemetery and one house to Riverview Cemetery, Inc. in 1920. In 1926 Alice and William built the stone chapel and in 1927 the mausoleum. The plans were drawn up by Frederick Townsend, the architect who designed The Alice T. Miner Museum, Chazy Central Rural School, Physicians' Hospital and many of the buildings on Heart's Delight Farm.

The earliest plans, drawn up by Townsend in 1918,
depict a rather stately structure.

Frederick Townsend's final drawing shows a more rustic building...
The Alice holds the sketches for the mausoleum, the
stone chapel and the museum in its archives.

For the first time I had the opportunity to see the inside of the mausoleum, a solidly built stone structure... I found the workmanship on the interior absolutely breath-taking, which was a surprise after studying the somewhat plain exterior of the building. The mausoleum is entered through a bronze gate with the initials "T M" which is repeated along with a bronze wreath inlaid in the marble floor.

As with all of the Miner structures,
the mausoleum was clearly built to last.

The plaque placed above the door to the mausoleum is inscribed with the
names of the members of the Trainer and Miner families interred within.

The interior of the mausoleum is beautifully decorated with mosaic tiles carefully handset in artistic designs, and seven colors of polished marble are arranged for the floor. The walls feature inlaid glass tile borders which are repeated throughout the space. The back wall is decorated with marble that was cut and then laid out as though unfolding a piece of paper, creating interesting rorschach images. The most interesting, yet subtle, image is just above a pink marble urn in the rear of the chamber. The urn may have been filled with fresh cut flowers from Heart's Delight Farm.

In the rear of the chamber, above a stained glass window, an
intertwined 'T' and 'M' are framed with a mosaic border.

The tiles used in the borders appear to be hand cut and are quite small - none larger than one inch. The room has a lovely domed ceiling with a glass and bronze light fixture. Clearly the best artisans available at the time were hired to create the lovely detail and lasting workmanship displayed is this final resting place for Alice T. Miner (1863-1950), William H. Miner (1862-1930), William Jr. (March 16, 1902 - March 30, 1902), Matilda Trainer (1851-1916), Bertha Trainer (1857-1928), and Louise Trainer (1861-1932).

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Khrabroff Collection

There is a wonderful variety of characters and historical figures to learn about at The Alice, with research frequently focusing on one General or another. On the second floor of the museum, in a little space that houses cases of dolls, is a photo of a Russian General - General Nicholas Khrabroff, who originally came to the United States from Russia as President of the Artillery Commission. From 1915-1917 the Russian Artillery Commission was based in New York, its mission to negotiate purchase of munitions and other artillery supplies for the Imperial Russian government.

The arms shortage in Russia was so acute during WWI, that by 1916 Russian soldiers were being sent to the front lines without arms, hoping they would equip themselves with weapons recovered from fallen soldiers from either side. Efforts at weapons production in Russia were greatly stepped-up and attempts to procure weapons overseas were intensified. Then came great turmoil in Russia, spurred on partly by the poor treatment of soldiers and massive loss of life in WWI.

Mrs. Khrabroff looks on as Nicholas Khrabroff puts the
finishing touches to the base of a pair of dolls.

By December, 1917 General Khrabroff was still acting in his role to procure arms, despite the changes in Government occurring in his country precipitated by the Russian Revolution. There is still question whether he could have actually been representing his government in agreements he signed during this time, having been sent as a representative of the Imperial Government, which had been overthrown in early 1917. Eventually, it became obvious that he could not return to Russia and he settled in Thetford, Vermont with his wife and daughter, having lost his son in WWI.

A Mongolian Couple and the sketches
from which Mrs. Khrabroff worked...

In their new life in Vermont it is Nicholas Khrabroff’s wife who emerges to us through her Christmas gifts to Alice. The Alice T. Miner Museum holds, among other wonderful collections, an assemblage of hand made dolls representing various historical and cultural groups of Russia. The 30 dolls, usually in male/female pairs, were lovingly made and clothed in their traditional dress by Mrs. M.V. Khrabroff, who even included accessories and jewels for the fascinating figures. Among them are: Peasant twins sent to Alice in 1929; a Polish Noble couple sent in 1928; a newly engaged Ukrainian couple; Finnish twins; a Shaman or “Mongolian Priest” holding his drum; a “bridal couple” from the Volga River region that Mrs. Khrabroff refers to as “Mordvah”, sent in 1935. The Mordvins (also Mordva, Mordvinians) are among the larger indigenous peoples of Russia.

The sketches were done by a friend in Petrograd.

Accompanying these wonderfully made dolls, some of whom have hand painted faces, are affectionate and romantic letters written to Alice by Mrs. Khrabroff about her creations. Some of the letters include sketches of costumes, and separate notes written to Alice by the dolls themselves! These letters are usually safely stored in our archives and therefore out of the public eye. Right now, however, you can see a few of the sketches and postcard images that inspired Mrs. Khrabroff, paired with the figures she created, on exhibit at The Alice.

For this pair Mrs. Khrabroff worked from postcard images...

She recreated every wonderful detail, including costume colors.

Mrs. Khrabroff once wrote to Alice, "I want you, dear Friend, to be sure that I understand very well that the only thing which makes my rag-dolls a little bit interesting and a little bit worthy (oh! very little!) to occupy a very, very small place in your beautiful and rich museum - is the truth of the costumes. Next year I am going to send you the sketches which Oksana made of the Tartars from the ethnographic figures in our best museum in Petrograd... I want that the whole Russia in the great variety of her numerous nationalities, tribes and races would stand up before you as a token of love and gratitude for what Mr. Miner and you, our endlessly kind Friend, made for one of her unfortunate families." The costumes and details of these figures are magnificent! Mrs. Khrabroff was justifiably proud of her work, and would be thrilled, we feel sure, if she knew your curiosity about these little works of art would lead you to visit The Alice!

Friday, July 17, 2009

ADK Family Time blog about visiting The Alice

Diane M. Chase writes about her tour of The Alice with her children in her blog:

ADK Family Time: Alice T Miner Museum

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thomas Jefferson & The Barbary Pirates

You may be surprised to learn this! Right here in this Colonial Revival influenced museum, first opened in 1924, resides a hand-written letter containing information that may help the United States Navy tackle the current problems presented by pirates on the high seas. In this letter, a very prominent man in our Nation's history offered his advice. He was the President of these United States and he held very strong opinions about dealing with the terror wrought by pirates! This, however, is no recent missive. It was written in November 1801, by Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson Bronzed Metal Plaque, early 19th century

Jefferson was writing to Thomas Newton. He wanted to thank him for the casks of "Hughes's crab cyder" (sic) Newton had sent to Jefferson. But the pirate issue weighed heavily on his mind. Jefferson had just become President in March of that year and he had made a bold decision regarding the Barbary pirates. Since 1784 Congress had been paying as much as $1,000,000 each year in tribute to the North African states of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers (the Barbary Coast) to protect it's ships from piracy. Jefferson had argued that simply continuing to pay the tribute would never solve the problem. He felt the only way to effectively deal with the issue of piracy was instead to protect our shipping interests with a strong Navy.

When Jefferson refused to pay the tribute, war was immediately declared on the U.S. by the pasha of Tripoli. U.S. Navy frigates were dispatched from the Mediterranean to defend U.S. interests. Thus began the Barbary Wars. Jefferson's refusal to submit to the extortion so surprised the North Africans that Tunis and Algiers broke their alliance with Tripoli. Jefferson's plan seemed to be working. The first Barbary War lasted from 1801 to 1805.

In The Alice's letter, Jefferson wrote Newton (then a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 11th congressional district) referring to Navy Lieutenant Sterritt's "having captured the Tripolitan... I wish it true the rather as it may encourage the legislature to throw off the whole of that Barbary yoke."

Letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Newton, Nov. 1801

I'll not reveal more in hopes you will come read this letter yourself. It is currently on exhibit in The Lincoln Library, along with another letter written by Jefferson, as well as the first English edition of his book, Notes on the State of Virginia, published in 1787. This is the only book written by Jefferson that was published in his lifetime.

Also, while visiting The Alice ask your guide to explain how one U.S. Navy Lieutenant finally got his revenge on the Barbary pirates
over 200 years after being held captive by them!

Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson,
First English Edition 1787

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dr. Franklin's Maxims (and other bits of wisdom... or decorative art...)

Recently I created an exhibit of objects from the collection related to Benjamin Franklin - it is quite varied in subject and materials; including plates and cups with "Franklin's Proverbs;" a lovely framed silhouette of Ben; and "A Treaty... With The Indians Of The Six Nations..." printed and sold by Benjamin Franklin.

He was a man of many talents and interests, as noted in this entry from Wikipedia, "Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania. He was an early proponent of colonial unity, and as a political writer and activist he supported the idea of an American nation. As a diplomat during the American Revolution he secured the French alliance that helped to make independence of the United States possible."

In these lean times I can't help but be struck by some of the words of our wise and inventive statesman. His original maxims appeared in Poor Richard's Almanac between the years 1732 - 1758. We are all familiar with the saying, "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." But some of the sayings on our transfer-ware plates and cups will be less familiar. Staffordshire ceramics factories began producing smaller china for children around 1790 (coincidentally the same year Franklin died.) Designs and sayings from books and magazines were freely "borrowed" (despite copyright laws forbidding this) and Ben Franklin's proverbs were printed on plates and cups made for children and containing "Lessons for Youth on Industry, Temperance & Frugality..."

On the cup: "If you would know the value of money try to borrow some. When the well is dry thy know the worth of water..."

Alice T. Miner purchased these cups and plates some time before 1924. They are usually housed with other transfer-ware pieces in one of the cases lining the walls of the ballroom. I've selected a few to include in this exhibit to allow visitors a closer look at this collection within a collection.

"Keep Thy Shop and Thy Shop Will Keep Thee..."

"Women and wine, game and deceit, make the wealth small and the want great. What maintains one vice, would bring up two children."

There are two images in the exhibit representing Benjamin Franklin. One is a framed steel engraving and the other a simple silhouette or "shade." The silhouette of Franklin in The Alice's collection shows the familiar and oft reproduced profile. Held in a lovely gold frame, this image dates to circa 1800.

The most extraordinary item in this exhibit is a 1744 treaty printed by Benjamin Franklin and is his account of a meeting between representatives of the Provinces of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland with "The Indians of the Six Nations" held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in June 1744.

The last image I'll reveal of this exhibit is a J.F.E. Prud'homme framed steel engraving after John Trumbull's "The Declaration of Independence." This image may be familiar to you from the back of the $2 bill. Ben Franklin is among the five statesman standing in front of the table - he is the gentleman on our right holding his spectacles. To see this image larger simply click on the photo... or, better yet, come to The Alice for a tour and see the exhibit for yourself!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Intimate Objects

With birds nesting and spring cleaning in full swing, I have been preparing the museum for our spring and summer visitors. Recently I put together a new exhibit in the Dining Room, and another in the first floor hall at The Alice. The museum collection holds a wide variety of wonderful treasured objects - pieces to interest a range of visitors and tastes; from Japanese prints and Sheraton furniture to engravings of famous statesman & poets, and silhouettes, ceramics, glassware, pottery, 18th century firearms, and rare books and manuscripts. Also within these walls that Alice and William Miner built remain some of their own intimate possessions.

the display with a photo of Will and my current
favorite photograph of Alice in the center

The museum also holds a large archive with many of the boxes filled with papers, letters and photographs belonging to Alice & William. Along with these records of their lives we have some of their personal belongings, including a few of the lovely gifts Will gave to Alice; a colorful Venetian brocade table cover, beaded purses and belts... oh, and some very sweet letters!

a few of Will's books and his fez complete with box!

Many of these objects are tucked away in what we call "The Miner Room" or "The Memento Room." I have brought some of my favorites together, converted the dining room table to a display space, covered it with the lovely Venetian brocade, and placed their intimate objects around the table for you to experience. In the center of the display I have placed a very handsome pair of silver-resist, green glass scent bottles with stoppers which were given to William Miner by Diamond Jim Brady, a friend and business associate.

letters from Will to Alice

Alice along with a cup and saucer from a set given
to Alice and William as a wedding gift in 1895

The new displays will only be on exhibit for a month, so come experience them for yourself. The Alice is open by appointment only for the month of April. On May 1 we will resume our regular hours: Tuesday - Saturday by guided tour, with tours starting at 10:00 am, noon, and 2:00 pm. For reservations please call 846-7336, or email me at

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Manuscript Reborn!

To followers of this blog this will come as no surprise, but 2008 was a significant year for a 15th century illuminated manuscript in The Alice T. Miner Museum's collection. 'The Lorraine Breviary' was carefully packed up and driven many miles away to receive some much needed loving care from an expert in book conservation, Deborah Evetts. For some details about the work Deborah completed to restore the Breviary you can refer back to my August 28, 2008 blog entitled Le Breviaire d’Henri de Lorraine (If clicking on the link does not take you to the older blog - you can find it by going to the "Blog Archive" on the right side of this page, opening the year '2008' and then opening the month of 'August', there you will see a link for the previous blog.)

On Thursday, April 2, at 7:00 pm Deborah Evetts will illustrate the tradition of manuscript repair through examples such as the Beatus Apocalypse and other manuscripts from her many years of conservation work. Ms. Evetts will then discuss the stages in the restoration of the Museum’s Breviary, the reasons behind each step, and how they effect the final result, accompanied by many photographs. A Manuscript Reborn: Restoration of the Lorraine Breviary will take you inside the world of book conservation, a journey through time. The ancient and exciting techniques employed to bind manuscripts – herringbone stitch and linked sewing, metal work, leather work, wood work and rare textiles – will transport you into an age where technical gadgets were not only unknown, they could not even be imagined... And where craftsmen making everything with their own hands made beautiful works of art.

Deborah Evetts: An internationally recognized book conservator she advises librarians and collectors on topics ranging from the best restoration/preservation methods, housing and climate control, and is entrusted by major libraries, museums and private clients with the restoration of their priceless books. Trained as a designer bookbinder by several of the greatest exponents of the classical English School of bookbinding she exhibits worldwide and her work is represented in numerous collections both institutional and private. Deborah is a lecturer on book conservation, fine binding, decorated papers, etc., to professional organizations, book clubs, publishers and educational institutions. As Drue Heinz Book Conservator at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, she cared for a magnificent and varied collection of Coptic manuscripts and bindings, medieval illuminated manuscripts, early printed books, music manuscripts, autograph manuscripts and documents and children's books. She combined this work with fine binding, designing, teaching, lecturing and consulting for major institutions and prominent private collectors. The latter included binding copies of President Kennedy's notebook for Jackie Kennedy to give to her children, and the rebinding of the 9th century De re culinaria manuscript of Marcus Apicius for the New York Academy of Medicine.

Tickets are $8 and seating is limited, for reservations please call 518-846-7336, or email me at!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Alice & Her Family

Alice T. Miner was from a very large family by today's standards. I have found conflicting reports on how many children her parents, Bernard Trainer and Louisa Saunders Trainer had, but there were ten or twelve children born from 1850 - 1868 (Alice in 1863.) One would expect that such a large brood would carry on to this day, perhaps contracting slightly with the changing times. And wouldn't it be interesting to have visits from the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Alice's siblings?

As far as I know, there have been no such visits since Alice passed away in 1950, that is, until 2007. That summer The Alice had a surprise visit from Helen Highley Matel and her family. Mrs. Matel visited with me long enough to tour the museum, a place she remembers visiting as a girl, but she does not live nearby and had not been to Chazy since the year Mrs. Miner passed away. The family connection is through Helen's grandfather, James Saunders Trainer, who was Alice Trainer Miner's older brother. James and his wife, Hannah, had one child, Helen Trainer Highley, Helen Highley Matel's mother.

James Saunders Trainer

It has been very interesting to continue a correspondence with Helen Highley Matel via email. Knowing that Helen was descended from Alice's brother I asked if she could send information about who he was, when he was born, what he looked like... The museum has photographs of Alice and a few of her sisters; Matilda, Bertha, and Louisa, but not one photo of her brothers; Bernard, James and William.

Helen Trainer Highley, Helen H. Matel's mother

What I received from Helen in return really surpassed all of my expectations! In late January I picked up a heavy padded envelope from the Post Office sent from Helen Highley Matel. I eagerly opened the parcel and was delighted to find a note from Helen and nearly thirty portraits of Saunders and Trainer family members, most of which I had never before seen! The following photo is the least formal of the collection, the rest seem to be studio portraits taken in Canada and the U.S.

Alice Trainer Miner, ca. 1898 near Chicago

At last some faces for a few of Alice's brothers, and some real surprises - three photographs of James Saunders (1792-1879) and a few with his wife, Jane Woolocott Saunders. James was Alice's grandfather who brought his family over from Crediton, England to Goderich, Ontario when Alice's mother was just a child. Goderich is where Alice and her siblings were born.

James and Jane Saunders

I had seen James Saunders face many times, in a painted portrait in the formal dining room of the museum. Now we are trying to determine if Jane's face is the same one looking out at us from a painted portrait in the collection that has previously remained unidentified.

Helen included a few rather romantic photographs of Alice, Bertha, and Matilda that I had never seen. Note the letter in Matilda's lap... She was the oldest child and raised Alice and her siblings after the loss of their parents.

Matilda Trainer, Alice's oldest sibling

Bertha Trainer, also older than Alice

William Trainer who was just a few years younger than Alice

In the accompanying correspondence Helen Highley Matel says she remembers meeting William Trainer once when she was very young. William was a pharmacist, scientist, civil servant, and author in Canada, the one person in Alice T. Miner's immediate family about whom you can find information on the internet.

The last photo I'd like to share is one of Alice at approximately age 15. She has very heavy bangs that make her look as though she has short hair - an unusual style for a girl at the time - but you can see what appears to be a thick braid of hair going behind her back. This is the youngest photo we have of Alice, note those light blue eyes... Many of the Trainer children have the very light eyes we have seen for years in photographs of Alice.

Alice Trainer Miner, ca. 1878

I'll leave you with some of Helen Highley Matel's recollections of her family,

"I do remember visiting Heart's Delight Farm when I was a little girl, probably twice it must have been in the late 30's or 1940. We drove up to Chazy from Medford during spring vacation, my mother, father and sister. Seward (Helen's brother) only remembers going once, he probably was too little the first time we went. We had to be old enough to behave properly in a formal setting. It was very exciting for us, my sister and I (to) be in such luxurious surroundings. I remember Aunt Alice as being a rather portly lady, of whom I was in awe..."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Blue Wall

As most of you know, The Alice put on a wonderful Japanese woodblock print show from our permanent collection during the summer and autumn of 2008. In order to display these stunning prints properly we completely transformed the museum’s Weaving Room into a gallery exhibit space, removing all objects that had been historically shown there. Last autumn, at the conclusion of the exhibit, the prints were placed in their archival boxes and put back to sleep in storage... the barn loom was returned, and the gallery was restored back to the Weaving Room, as if no print exhibit had ever taken place!

With big changes come new ideas... we thought, hmmm, why not include some adventurous color in the Weaving Room? A delicious dark cobalt blue was settled on, and we painted one panel of the North wall to add some energy to the room. Interesting how one new idea can lead to another... this new blue really wanted to become a stage to feature an additional item from the collection. Perhaps a wonderful piece of furniture that has always been difficult to fully appreciate in it's usual space in the museum? Aha!

We carefully moved a Queen Anne High Chest down from the Southeast Bedroom on the third floor and placed it in front of the blue. It actually sings in its new space! For once it is properly lit and the color of the chest leaps out!

It will be another few months before our public can come to see this transformation in person, and there will be other new exhibits when we open again for tours in the Spring. I hope this little teaser will get you in the door again... you really must see the blue wall and High Chest!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Volunteer at The Alice!

At The Alice we are expanding our docent program and hoping to reach out to community members who are looking for an opportunity to be an important part of our team of volunteers.

Volunteers and docents at The Alice fill vital roles, including; interpreting the museum and it’s collection for visitors, researching our archives, assisting at special events, keeping the garden beautiful, caring for the collection, conducting research of the collection, and working with school groups to learn about The Alice T. Miner Museum and about our Nation’s past through study of our collection.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in volunteering at the museum please call Amanda Palmer at 846-7336 to set up an interview!