It seems like everyone collects something – heirloom furniture, baseball cards, vintage purses… Sometimes it’s a purposeful process and sometimes you look around the house and realize that your possessions seem to have multiplied. At least, I do. Whether the collection is intentional or accidental, the outcome is usually the same: you have objects you care about, and you want to take good care of them. If this sounds familiar, I have good news for you – this year and next, the Hammond-Harwood House and City of Bowie Museums will be presenting new sessions of our Collector’s Corner workshop series.
Each workshop will cover the care of a different type of material; sessions on photographs, ceramics, glass, fine art, and paper and ephemera are all on the schedule. We invite museum staff members and volunteers as well as anyone with their own collection to take advantage of this no-cost opportunity to learn modern, museum-sanctioned techniques for caring for their collections. More information and the workshop schedule are available on the Hammond-Harwood House website.
One of the many collections of glass owned by Henry Sleeper on display at Beauport, Sleeper-McCann House in Massachusetts
By Tara Owens
The Hammond-Harwood House opens for the season this Saturday, April 6 at 12pm. In preparation for opening day, my fellow intern Brianna Arnold and I rotated the objects in the exhibit gallery. The overall goal of this redesign was to provide a better introduction to the House for visitors and give them a glimpse of what they will encounter on the tour. After many hours scouring our collections, three themes emerged: occupants of the Hammond-Harwood House, highlights from the collection, and architecture. One section of the gallery focuses on the history of the occupants of the House with examples of family crests, a visual timeline of the owners, and items owned by the last occupants, Hester and Lucy Harwood. This will help visitors to understand the historical timeline of the House and make the information presented in the tour more relatable. Highlights from the collections present visitors with examples of the decorative and fine arts they will encounter within the House. The architecture section introduces the visitor to one of the key elements that makes the House historically significant. The Hammond-Harwood House is one of the best examples of American colonial architecture and the new exhibit gallery offers information on the House’s architectural details and history. We hope the new exhibit gallery will enhance your experience at the Hammond-Harwood House. So, starting this Saturday, we hope to see you there!
A photograph of Hester Harwood as a young girl, now on display in the exhibit gallery
By Tara Owens
This Monday the Hammond-Harwood House hosted the event “Collector’s Corner Workshop: Silver Cleaning & Care.” Cohosted by our very own Allison Titman and the wonderful Samantha Dorsey from The City of Bowie Museums, the event welcomed other museum professionals and interested members of the community. The workshop discussed the differences between sheet, raised, and cast silver, what tarnish is and how to remove it, and the best methods of storing and displaying silver pieces. After the discussion, everyone got down to business and tried their hand at polishing some silver. Everyone put on their nitrile gloves and dipped their cotton balls into a mixture of calcium bicarbonate and distilled water. The results were quite astounding – pieces that originally looked dark brown or almost black transformed into a shiny silver. Interns Brianna Arnold and Tara Owens spent the next couple of days putting their newly acquired skills to work polishing various pieces of the Hammond-Harwood House silver collections.
This workshop was just the beginning. Planning for additional Collector’s Corner Workshops are underway. Topics to be discussed include furniture and textiles. Stay tuned for additional information regarding the dates and locations of future workshops, and please let us know if there is a topic of interest you would like to have included in an upcoming workshop. We are always open to suggestions.
A small bed, and a big one, in the Northeast Bedchamber
On snowy Friday afternoons my thoughts can’t help but turn to hibernation. Or at least a long nap in a cozy bed. If I wasn’t such a rule-abiding curator, I could curl up in the high-post bed in the Northeast Bedchamber and put my doll (or cat!) in the miniature bed at its foot. But since I think someone would notice if there was snoring emanating from the furniture, I’ll have some coffee and get back to work.
By Collections Assistant Brianna Arnold
Over the past few months I have been tasked with compiling an inventory of the collection here at the Hammond-Harwood House. This has consisted of me scouring the house searching for objects and listing where I have found them. While on my latest hunt for a few hard-to-find pieces I came across a sword hidden the linen press in the upper passage of the house. I was instantly intrigued with the sword and decided to do some sleuthing to find out more about the piece.
The sword, in situ in the linen press
Starting with its collection file, I found that this sword was referred to as a rapier dating from 1760-1770 and was “used for slashing and thrusting.” The file also stated that the sword was of either French or Northern German origins, but other than that it was a mystery. So where did the sword come from and when was it made? Wanting to try to answer these questions, I contacted an acquaintance who is somewhat of a sword expert. His response to the photos I sent him was quite surprising. His opinion is that the sword is a small sword (not a rapier), which was more popular with gentlemen in the later half of the 18th century, but that the dimensions of the sword are off. If the sword is in fact a small sword the blade is a bit too long. He also doubts that all the pieces of the handle are original, thinking instead that they were added later. Although he only saw photographs of the sword, he is fairly certain that it is not from the late 1700’s but rather a more modern (and by modern I mean the last 100 years) decorative reproduction.
So it would seem that I uncovered a fake! Not so fast, though, because the sword was included in a Sotheby’s inventory of our collection a few years ago and was labeled as a “French Brass-Handled Steel Rapier” dating from the late 1700’s. So is it a genuine 18th century sword, or a more modern reproduction? At this point, we are not sure, but would love to hear more opinions.
Anyone have one of these sitting in their house? Someone brought us this advertisement recently, and it was the first I had ever heard of furniture pieces from the Hammond-Harwood House collection being reproduced. I would love to see one of them, and plan on keeping my eyes peeled at consignment stores and thrift shops from now on.
Susan Amelia Yorke Hambro in 1860
History works in mysterious and wonderful ways. The Hammond-Harwood House has a portrait of Philip Yorke, the 1st Earl of Hardwicke, that descended in his family to Susan Amelia Yorke Hambro (pictured above) and was eventually sold at auction. Mrs. Clifford Hendrix, a former director of the Hammond-Harwood House, purchased it at the sale and later generously donated it to us, so the Earl now hangs proudly in our large parlor. Imagine my surprise when the blog of the British National Trust features a post on their portrait of the same man! I immediately commented on it, and received an e-mail from Emile de Bruijn, a Registrar for the Trust and the blog’s author. We traded information on our Yorke portraits and he has written an excellent summary of their histories. Please go read all about our portrait of the Earl and his English twin!