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Why We Collect: Recent Acquisitions at Historic Deerfield, 2010-2017


Flynt Center of Early New England Life

Historic Deerfield possesses one of the premier public collections of decorative arts and architecture in America, with a particular focus on the material culture of the Connecticut River Valley.  “Why We Collect: Recent Acquisitions at Historic Deerfield, 2010-2017” presents more than 20 highlights from the past seven years. The exhibition also explains how these objects help us to understand everyday life, work, and culture in New England’s past, and why the museum's staff added them to the collection.  

Through the generosity of donors and selective purchases, the museum's collections continue to grow and become more comprehensive.  Using three thematic categories, this exhibition will showcase a variety of media from furniture and clothing to manuscripts and architectural paneling.   The museum's primary collecting area is the material culture and decorative arts of Deerfield, Massachusetts, from early settlement to the present. The section “Coming Home to Deerfield” features several significant objects of art, culture, and history made and/or owned on The Street in Old Deerfield, which were supported by the Deerfield Collectors Guild. These acquisitions enhance the museum's mission of interpreting the craftsmanship, design, technology, and patronage of this great place.

In addition to owning the single best collection of Connecticut River Valley decorative arts, the museum is also nationally known for its early American decorative arts and related European and Chinese decorative arts. Particular strengths include Connecticut Valley furniture, British pottery, Chinese export porcelain, European and American textiles, fashion, and needlework, New England silver, New England folk paintings, British prints, and architectural woodwork from western New England.  “Building Collections” features objects that have filled collection gaps and strengthened our holdings in a particular area. 

Finally, “Objects and Education” explores collections acquired as teaching tools to illustrate process and technology, European or high-style comparisons, marketing techniques, change over time, adaptive reuse, repairs and replacements, and fakes and forgeries. Historic Deerfield has long been a center of education in the Pioneer Valley. Through workshops, demonstrations, lectures, and courses, the museum staff uses authentic objects to teach about material culture, decorative arts, architecture, and history.