Historic Deerfield is home to one of the best public collections of art and antiques in America. Begun and formed in large part by founders Henry and Helen Flynt during a lifetime of collecting, the collection has been refined with hundreds of additions by professional staff since the mid-1970s.
Much of the collection is on display in historic houses, as well as in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life, home to both exhibitions and visible storage in the Museum’s Attic. Information and images of many objects are also available though the Five College Museums/Historic Deerfield Collections Database.
The following list highlights strengths in Historic Deerfield’s collections:
Furniture: As the core area of collecting by Historic Deerfield, the furniture collection focuses on pieces from the Connecticut River Valley. Also present are masterworks from seaport cities, many of which belong to The George Alfred Cluett Collection of American Furniture and Clocks currently on display in the exhibition Into the Woods: Crafting Early American Furniture.
Ceramics: Consisting of several thousand objects, the ceramics collection at Historic Deerfield specializes in Chinese export porcelain; English ceramics, featuring The Alistair Sampson Collection of English Creamware; and Whately pottery (earthenware and stoneware).
Textiles, Clothing, and Embroidery: Celebrating the Fiber Arts is a permanent exhibition with changing elements on display in The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery is a permanent exhibition area in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life dedicated to the display of objects from the collections of textiles, clothing and embroidery. A testament to over 60 years of collecting, it organizes objects by the four natural fibers—silk, wool, cotton, and linen. Needlework is a particular strength, including samplers and pictures. The museum also holds several early and important quilts and bedrugs, and a set of reproduction Ashley Bedhangings in the Ashley House.
Paintings: Numbering in the hundreds, and mostly on display throughout the rooms of the historic houses, the collection includes several portraits by Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900), and the only known portrait of American architect Asher Benjamin (1773-1845).
Maps and Prints: Housed in the Flynt Center of Early New England Life and the Memorial Libraries, and the historic houses (particularly the Ashley House), the collection focuses on prints and maps known to have been owned in Deerfield and the Connecticut River Valley, the collection’s strengths include: portraits (New England), landscapes, political and allegorical prints, and depictions of historical events.
Silver and Metalware: The Henry Needham Flynt Silver and Metalware Collection focuses on early American silver, especially from New England. The original collection of 92 pieces has grown to more than 4,000 objects of American and English silver, with a strength in local church silver including: the communion silver of the First Church of Deerfield and loans from the First Churches of Northampton, and the First Church of Sunderland, Massachusetts. The building features a silversmith’s workshop with many traditional tools, and a room devoted to pewter and other metalwares made and used in early America.
Glass: This collection includes several hundred pieces of English and American glass, including examples from the Warwick, Massachusetts, Glass Factory.
Powder Horns: Historic Deerfield is proud to be home to one of the finest assemblages of this indigenous and unique American art form, thanks in large part to the acquisition of The William H. Guthman Collection of Engraved American Powder Horns in 2005. The collection is currently on display in the exhibition Engraved Powder Horns from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Click here to view or download a pdf of the article “Revealing the Culture of Conflict: Engraved Powder Horns from The French & Indian War,” by Philip Zea, President, Historic Deerfield.
Folk Art: Many objects in the collections, especially some furniture pieces and the engraved powder horns, can also be classified as folk art.
Transportation: While not an active area of collecting, Historic Deerfield is home to The Frank Boyden Carriage Collection. Available by appointment only.
Books, Manuscripts, and Archival Documents: The Memorial Libraries are home to several thousand volumes of rare books, manuscripts, and archival documents.
Historic Interiors: Historic houses are the core of the museum’s public offerings, and include many authentically decorated and furnished interiors representing time periods from 1725 right up through 1850.
Architectural Restoration: Historic houses are the core of the museum’s public offerings, and include many authentic exteriors representing time periods from 1730 right up through 1848.