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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Victorian Society in America

I wanted to bring your attention to a great resource for those among you who are Victorian Period enthusiasts. The Victorian Society of America is an organization that promotes the understanding of the American Victorian Historical context through preservation, education, promotion and generally the enjoyment of the Victorian period.

This organization was founded as a sister organization to the British Victorian Society in 1966. Since then the society has grown to be THE word in all things Victorian in America.

On the organization’s website you will find a very large resource list, important books about the period, summer schools for the study of the Victorian Period, a list of all the chapters around the U.S., and actually more information than I can relate on this limited space.

I love this site, you should visit and oh, don’t forget to leave your calling card!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Take a moment and visit Thistledew Mercantile

There are many great things about this job but one of the best is finding wonderful artisans who are revitalizing the art of the past with talent and innovation. I am so proud to announce a new “Feature Artisan” to the site.

Thistledew Merchantile is a lovely site that sells the historic scissor art by Kim Frey. One of the 2009 artisans featured in the Directory of Early American Craftsman that is published by Early American Life magazine (another one of our favorites) Kim is a very talented addition to our growing list of American Craftsman.

Since 1990, the Freys’ artwork has been shown at local Art Leagues, in traveling exhibits with the Guild of American Papercutters, in special exhibits with Delaware State Museums, and in museum and gift shops across the country. Thistledew Merchantile can produce the “very thing” for your gift list and is a wonderful historical addition to any historic house museum’s gift shop.

The site features the following historic scissor art genres-


…a Pennsylvania German folk craft, literally meaning “scissors snipping.” Scherenschnitte was used to create Valentines, Christmas tree ornaments, cake stencils, artwork for the home, and shelf decorations.


…an artistic form of important documents such as birth, baptismal, and wedding records. Fraktur were also given as rewards of merit for good students, house blessings, and bookplates.


…sometimes called “shades” or “shadows,” silhouettes were the common man’s portrait before modern photography was invented

The Freys live in Delaware with their daughter Katelyn, two goats, a whole bunch of chickens, and Oreo the cat. (Daughter Jordan, son-in-law Luke, and grandboys Jackson and Derik are staking a claim way out west!) Their artwork…and often the Freys themselves…can be seen in person at Hudson’s General Store, in Clarksville, Delaware

I urge you to take a moment and visit this site it is truly a new american treasure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thank You to all Local Museums everywhere

It is that time of year again, every spring there are conferences for national, regional and state museums to gather and learn from noted experts in different relevant subject matter and see the latest from the trade companies that cater to the museum world.

Such an event I just attended in Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) held its conference from March 14th-16th and I was privileged to attend and sit in on some of the events. On the drive home I was again struck by the amazing dedication to this professionthat these true public servants displayed. Amid announcements of lost funding, cutbacks in budgets and lay-offs, I heard imaginative ideas to deal with the current events that are impacting them so powerfully.

I thought that I would reprise my blog from last year’s conference experience. I again urge you all to support your local museum with your donations or please find a way to donate your time to help replace in part the lost workforce.

When I was a little girl, my mother took me to our local small museum which was in the basement of the local library. We walked down the aisles filled with the odd assortment of objects and memorabilia that are often displayed in such museums. We stopped in front of a large case that had a woven coverlet draped in such a way, so the viewer would have the best look at it they could in the small space it was consigned to. I remember my mom saying something like” President Van Buren gave your Great, great, great grandfather this as a present, they were very good friends”. Now, this sparked two reactions in my young mind. That’s a lot of GREATS, and he must not have liked him that much cause that is one UGLY spread. The point of this little story is that had it not been for that small museum in that little town in West Virginia, I would have never gotten to see something that was a real link to the past, to MY past. I have, as do all of us, a small museum to thank for that.

There are people all over this country that have visited like museums and seen the proof of their ancestry on display conserved at various levels of expertise I’ll give you, but saved nonetheless. They walk through the doors and there is Uncle Joe’s WWI helmet and the letters filled with longing he sent home to his wife or the glove and parasol of someone you vaguely knew you are related to and as soon as you see it you are again determined to call your Great Aunt and not only ask those questions about the family you always wanted to but you are also going to WRITE IT down. Thus a family’s written history is born.

We have the small museum director and its board or if really lucky a curator to thank for this…They are dedicated professionals who work with little or no budgets and constantly fight to preserve the tangible bits of our history that otherwise would just slip away. I recently attended the annual Small Museum Conference and observed some of the most talented and educated people in this profession grapple with the new challenges this economy has given them. Luckily for all of us, I heard enthusiasm and excitement from most, if not all of them that I spoke to. They remain focused, dedicated and determined to recommit, rethink and even redesign the small museums that we as the public entrust to their care. Please support your local small museum or local historical society, they are supporting you every day in preserving our shared history.

Visit the Culpeper Museum of History.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Using Antiques in your historic home

Of course the use of period antiques are the best way to furnish your period home, but how do you know if what you are buying is authentic or period correct. Finding a reputable dealer in antiques of the period that you are interested in is the best way to find your way through the intricacies of appraisal and purchase.

Some periods are more affordable than others And certainly much easier to find. The Victorian period is the most prolific as many of these pieces were machine made and mass produced. The arts and crafts period is next having been fabricated in the early 20th century and there are still many fine pieces to be found. The Colonial and Federal periods are the ones that I feel you will be paying the most for although it is true, one of a kind handmade items will be costly whatever the period. Search the web for appraisers and dealers that have professional affiliation with either of these two organizations.

these organizations will give you the names of antique dealers that are reputable and knowledgable.

The following is a short list for what to keep in mind when shopping for antiques.

Although bargains and good deals may be had when buying certain antiques, the first rule of thumb is to be highly suspicious of bargains when shopping for antiques. This is the initial and sometimes the most costly lesson any collector needs to learn. You must not set out to haggle with the dealer.

Step 2

The antique you buy should never be solely for investment purposes. Most antiques have proven to be a solid investment for most antique collectors. In addition, the items have been historically a wonderful hedge against inflation. The thing to remember, however, is the increasing value of the item is dependent on changing preferences within the market.

Step 3

You must be wary of heavily restored antiques. It goes without saying that most antiques need care as well as periodic restoration. However, an antique that has been excessively restored will show no signs of its age and thus cannot be fairly judged in determining the authenticity and antiquity of the piece. It is therefore advisable to stay clear of items that have been overly restored or excessively refinished.

Step 4

Be leery of reproductions or fake representations. Consider the demand of particular items. When demand rises to very high levels, reproductions and fakes are the by-products of such demand.

Step 5

Do not barter over price. Most dealers consider their prices rigid and firm. Today's dealer marks her prices up according to a fixed percentage in order to secure a profit. Wrangling over price is part of the old business of antiques. Unless you find such a rare situation, it is advised you accept the dealer's price as established with no room for flexible negotiating.

Step 6

In order to attain the best value, it is highly recommended you learn all that you possibly can about antiques. You may do so by subscribing to periodicals and reading books on the subject. Visit museums and well-regarded antique shops.

Step 7

Manage your range of collections. In other words, it simply is not possible for you to collect antiques in every category. Narrow your focus to a reasonable level. Choose one or two eras and one or two preferred collectibles within an era. If you collect too extensively over too broad a range, it will only prove to take away from the enjoyment you'll find as an organized collector.

Step 8

Many times you may be journeying about and find a monstrosity of an antique you greatly admire far from the area of your home. Resist the temptation to purchase it, unless you have access to a truck. Moving such an item can be more of a problem than you may have anticipated.

Step 9

It is important to trust your initial instincts. This step, of course, comes with experience as well as persistence.

Step 10

Collect solely for pleasure. Collecting and owning items of rare or great beauty should be your only motive. Men throughout history have collected antiquities. If you choose to be a collector of antiques, do not resist. There are few hobbies more rewarding--even if you must do so on a budget.