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Winterthur embraces virtual world with antique show, conferences

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Erica Wilson needlework
Erica Wilson, an influential embroidery designer and entrepreneur who produced her own PBS show in the studio next to Julia Child, is the focus of a new online exhibition created by Winterthur.

 

The Delaware Antiques Show exemplifies how Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library is increasingly welcoming virtual offerings.

The show is Winterthur’s first large-scale virtual event, said Jill Abbott, associate director of events. Being is online is “an opportunity to expand awareness of the show and Winterthur far and wide.”

The antiques show follows a virtual needlework conference that doubled in attendance over its in-person predecessor, two exhibitions that converted to being virtual only and renewed interest in a 2017 exhibition that retains a strong online presence. 

And starting in January, Winterthur plans to add a free virtual tour of its unmatched collection of Americana, stunning gardens and du Pont family life.

 

From Saturday to Nov. 14, antiques enthusiasts anywhere will have free access to 48 dealers and several lectures, all online. (There’s a $30 charge for more lectures, with details at the end of this post.)

“I’m amazed by the number of items fresh to the market,” said Tom Savage, director of external affairs. “Every dealer has a show-stopper.”

“It’s as close as we can get to the real thing without everyone being on the [Wilmington] Riverfront,” said Linda Eaton, director of collections, noting that dealers are poised to offer to discerning buyers even more images of items, say on hard-to-read signatures or other details.

 

“It’s liberating to do things online,” said Mark Nardone, communications manager. “In the real world, space is limited. Being online opens things up to new audiences.”

This spring, when pandemic restrictions hit, Winterthur, like many attractions, closed. Its book club and Terrific Tuesdays program for families went online.

It has reopened, following all the rules, and produced a robust lineup of videos on Facebook and Instagram. “People are hungry for the content,” Nardone said.

 

The biennial needlework conference, run virtually in October, drew 419 participants from eight countries, up from 193 in 2018. 

The physical conference was capped at a smaller attendance, because of space limits on workshops and tours, but the virtual event showed an unexpectedly strong interest in just lectures, Eaton said.

A planned on-site exhibition called “Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches” went online instead. Wilson is “the most successful embroidery designer, teacher and entrepreneur in America during the second half of the 20th century,” according to the museum.

needlework picture
This 1846 needlework picture by Rachel Ann Lee, of the Oblate Sisters of Providence School in Baltimore is part of “Re-Presenting Black Womanhood,” a new online Winterthur exhibition.

 

Also going online was “Re-Presenting Black Womanhood,” which focuses on “stories that celebrate Black women and confront racial and gender stereotypes.”

Those moves allowed for the expansion of “Lady of the House: Ruth Wales du Pont,” an exhibition about the wife of Winterthur’s founder.

Winterthur staff members also noticed a resurgent interest in the interactive online version of an earlier crowd-pleaser,  “Treasures on Trial: The Art and Science of Detecting Fakes.”

Winterthur continues to welcome visitors in person. Its Yuletide calendar includes a wide array of events and the debut of a light show on the facade of the house.

 

57th annual Delaware Antiques Show

The antiques show has a waiting list of dealers, since physical space is limited at the Riverfront, Abbott said. This year’s participants had already been selected, and Savage called them “a faithful group of the top Americana dealers.” The dealers online were limited to 30 items, Abbott said.

Savage said that sbout 3,000 people attend the show at the Riverfront.

This year’s show includes two free lectures by students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in American Material Culture: Cara Caputo on “Esprit de Washington: The Story of a Patriotic French Flask,” and Christopher Malone on “Anonymous by Trade, Identified by Sight: Exploring a Shop Sign at Winterthur.”

A package of virtual lectures on demand is $30 for the duration of the show.

 

The keynote is by Katie Ridder and Peter Pennoyer on “Pillow Talk: A Designer Wife and Architect Husband Open Up About Design, Architecture, and Style.”

10 Winterthur staff members are giving 20-minute lectures:

• Stéphanie Delamaire, associate curator of fine arts, “Who Owns Washington? Gilbert Stuart and the Battle for Artistic Property in the Early Republic.”

• Linda Eaton, director of collections, “Tales on Textiles.”

• Leslie B. Grigsby, senior curator of ceramics and glass, “’Your Beverage of Choice’: Wine-Related Equipage at Winterthur.”

 

• Jeff Groff, estate historian, “The Cottage, H F. du Pont’s Last Residence at Winterthur.”

• Emily Guthrie, library director, “Ornery Ornament: Beasts, Bugs, and Humanoids in the Early Modern Ornament Collections of the Winterthur Library.”

• Deborah Harper, senior curator of education, “H.F. du Pont Collects Massachusetts Furniture.”

• Josh Lane, curator of furniture, “Furniture Fakes: 2 Winterthur Case Studies.”

• Tom Savage, director of external affairs, “Southern Surprises: Treasures from Charleston in the Winterthur Collection.”

• Melissa Tedone, laboratory head for book and library materials conservation, “Toxic Tomes: A Hidden Peril in the Victorian Home.”

• Ann K. Wagner, curator of decorative arts, “Recent Acquisitions: Collecting New Stories and Memories in Metal.”

The show benefits Winterthur’s educational programs and is sponsored by Wilmington Trust and M&T and 

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