Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Turkeys Here Are Alright

Our abundant apple trees: just another perk of the Museum's beautiful landscape in autumn.
Recently, I took a quick walk around the grounds on a sunny morning to do a bit of exploring and brainstorming. Although we're officially closed for the 2011 season, everyone around here continues business as usual. We've been preparing for the long winter ahead and yes, planning for next year already. This season was certainly memorable and excellent in many ways, and we thank everyone who made our incredible exhibits possible. We also would like to thank all the folks who came to visit and explore the museum throughout the summer!

Speaking of giving thanks, I stumbled upon something during my walk that is utterly appropriate to commemorate the holiday we just celebrated. It has to do with this building, the Horseshoe Barn. Look closely and maybe you'll see what I mean:
View of the barn: constructed here on the grounds from 1947-1949.
Take a closer look.
Yes, our folk art collection includes representations of the infamous turkey! Traditionally, Thanksgiving turkeys might appear on your dinner table but our sculptural examples live proudly on the exterior of the barn.

Gobble gobble...
This pair of turkeys is very similar to (and perhaps based off of) another pair of carved objects we have in the collection. The original folk art carvings are made from pine and coated in gesso and gilt paint:

27.FM-29 a-b; Pair of Turkey Carvings
Our turkey collection doesn't stop at folk art, however. We've also got some Audubon prints that are similarly themed:

1958-311.1; Wild Turkey by John James Audubon
 And here's another one, also by Audubon:

1958-311.2; Wild Turkey by John James Audubon
Of course, this season isn't just about the Turkey and the shopping deals. On behalf of the museum, we hope everyone enjoyed a safe and restful holiday.

...and possibly a few slices of some fresh apple pie.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Meet The Maker!

Recently, Monica and I have been cataloging furniture over here in Collections Management. If you visited the museum this past season, you may have seen the exhibit entitled Something Old, Something New: Continuity and Change in American Fine Furnishings from 1700-1820. This exhibit displayed a wonderful selection of some of our finest high-style furniture pieces. However, we've got a lot of great furniture in our collection that isn't part of this particular exhibit--much of it is also on view in our historic houses!

As I was working on the table collection, I came across this lovely little piece:
Mahogany Table by Nathaniel Jillson (3.6-152), ca. 1840
This small table was made in the 1840s by Nathaniel Jillson. The wood is mahogany and the table is finished with veneer. It has a four-legged pedestal base and a shallow "apron" around the top. The maker, Mr. Jillson, lived and worked in Williamstown, Vermont. He was born in 1797 and died in 1878. Small tables like this one were of great use during the 19th century, especially ones that could be easily picked up and moved from room to room. Apparently they were called "tavern tables" in some regions.

I wondered about Mr. Jillson and his furniture business. As it turns out, I didn't have to look too far to learn a little bit more about him--here at the museum we also have his portrait!
Portrait of Nathaniel Jillson (27.1.1-222) by Keane West Davis
I happened upon Nathaniel himself as I worked with our paintings collection one morning. I was so excited to see the person who crafted one of our furniture pieces. This painting was made in 1844; Nathaniel was 47 years old at the time. Our records show that the census in the mid-19th century listed Mr. Jillson as a furniture and cabinet-maker in Williamstown. The portrait-painter, Keane West Davis, also lived in Williamstown and he also painted Mr. Jillson's second wife, Amanda: 
Portrait of Amanda Ervilla Bacon Jillson ( by Keane West Davis
According to the information we have about the Jillsons, Nathaniel also made the wooden frames for these two portraits. Seems like he was a man of many talents!