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Deerfield Arts and Crafts movement exhibit to open

PVMA launches new permanent display

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Suzanne Flynt, Curator at the Memorial Hall Museum in Old Deerfield, with a Deerfield Willow Basket, wrought iron work and a chest of drawers from Deerfield in the 1920's.

DEERFIELD — In June, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association will showcase a new permanent exhibit, which for the first time in the museum’s history will focus on the artistic value of the collection.

The $300,000 project focuses on the arts and crafts movement that took shape in Deerfield in the late 19th and early 20th century. The arts and crafts movement in Deerfield was at its greatest point in 1913. The exhibit will mark its 100th anniversary.

The PVMA — a nonprofit organization that maintains a museum, research library and teachers’ center in Old Deerfield — received a $150,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a federal agency, to fund the exhibit and its related website, www.artscrafts-deerfield.org.

With the money, the PVMA will turn two rooms on the third floor of Memorial Hall Museum into a contemporary exhibit depicting the arts and crafts movement. It will include 110 artifacts, including colonial-inspired needlework as well as rugs, basketry, pottery, metalwork, furniture and weavings. The exhibit will open in June and become one of the permanent exhibits in the museum, which means it will be on display for 10 or more years. The museum season runs from May 1 to Oct. 31.

The PVMA also received an $80,000 grant from the International Music and Art Foundation to pay for the publication of e_SDLqPoetry to the Earth: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Deerfield,” written by the curator of Memorial Hall Museum, Suzanne L. Flynt. The book chronicles the story of how arts and crafts transformed the Deerfield farming village into a leading crafts center. The book will be released by the end of March. It will feature 350 illustrations of Deerfield’s arts and craft pieces.

According to a book excerpt written by Flynt and published in the winter edition of the “Style 1900 Magazine,” in 1896 a group of colonial women turned sleepy Deerfield into not only an agricultural community, but a hub of handicraft production.

Between 1884 and 1904, female teachers, artists and writers seeking country homes moved into the mile-long Main Street. Along with farmers’ wives and daughters, these women gathered in each other’s homes to form one of America’s first village industries. In 1896, two women, Margaret Whiting and Ellen Miller founded the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework, employing up to 30 local women to stitch and design embroideries. In 1901, it was followed by the founding of the Deerfield Society of Arts and Crafts, led by Madeline Yale Wynne. Eventually, the women opened up their homes for tourism, attracting buyers from New York, Boston and Chicago.

“Deerfield was in a unique position. It was inspired by its colonial history. A lot of what the women were turning out by hand had colonial design,” said Tim Neumann, the executive director of PVMA.

Summer exhibitions and exposure in New York, Boston and Chicago and the national press made Deerfield’s crafts well known across the country. The farm village’s craft production remained strong until World War I and the death of Wynne.

The museum now maintains the world’s largest collection of Deerfield’s arts and crafts, particularly pieces from the Deerfield Society of Blue and White Needlework.

Two members of the memorial association were instrumental in making the project possible, according to Neumann. The association is similar to a historical society, in which members pay fees to receive museum discounts and vote annually for officers. Van and Molly Wood of Small Corp. in Greenfield donated $25,000 worth of their time and professional services for the project. The Small Corp. designs and manufactures conservation and museum cases and picture frames for clients across the world. This was on top of $26,000 from other donors.

“Van and Molly Wood are longtime friends of the museum. They offered their services to make this spectacular,” Neumann said.

The museum’s portion of the project costs is $150,000. This is to match the $150,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The museum’s expenses are paid for by the Wood’s in-kind donation, the $26,000 in other donations, the $80,000 grant from the International Music and Art Foundation and $20,000 from the museum’s operating revenue.

The exhibit brings new changes for PVMA. For the first time, PVMA emphasizes the artistic value and not just the history behind an object.

“PVMA is a history museum,” Neumann said. “There’s a statement in our 1880 catalog, which says nothing is preserved in this building because of its artistic worth. It’s here because its a memorial to the past. This is the first time we’ve stressed the artistic value of part of our collection.”

For the first time, PVMA will use technology to educate its guests. Using QR codes, viewers can scan the code into their smart phones, which will connect them to the exhibit’s website, where they can find more information on the piece before them. This will save museum wall space.

However, PVMA will continue to emphasize its pieces.

“There’s a tendency for technology to take over. Instead of looking at the object, people are looking at their phones,” Neumann said.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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