Exhibition | Comforts, Cures, and Distractions
The farmhouse in which Bronson Alcott and family lived, now Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, May 2009).
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Press release from Fruitlands Museum (via Art Daily). . .
Comforts, Cures, and Distractions: Winter at Fruitlands Museum
Fruitlands Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts, 29 November 2016 — 26 March 2017
Curated by Shana Dumont Garr and Rebecca Migdal
The Trustees of Reservations [a non-profit land conservation and historic preservation organization dedicated to preserving natural and historical places in Massachusetts] announced that Fruitlands Museum, its newest property, is presenting Comforts, Cures, and Distractions: Winter at Fruitlands Museum, running through March 26, 2017. The exhibition brings wintry New England into vivid focus with an assortment of art and artifacts from the museum’s diverse Transcendentalist, Shaker, Native American, and landscape painting collection.
“As daylight hours shorten and temperatures plummet, snow transforms the landscape, blanketing it with hushed beauty,” says Fruitlands Curator Shana Dumont Garr, who joined The Trustees in September. “During this season of winter wonder it becomes difficult to imagine how people made it through the cold weather in past centuries, before central heating and other modern conveniences. The objects assembled in Comforts, Cures, and Distractions will connect visitors to moments spent during winters past, and historical attempts to foster good health and good cheer, offering glimpses into wintertime daily life in 18th- and 19th-century New England when life was often so much more challenging day to day.”
The array of items also tells a unique story about Fruitlands’ collection, with Shaker scarves and mittens, a Woodlands Native American water warmer, or mokuk, and a 19th-century painting of ice skaters that captures the dramatic transformation of the landscape. There are skates, sleds, and snowshoes dating from the era when 11-year-old Louisa May Alcott described playing in the snow when she and her family lived in the Fruitlands Farmhouse in 1834, as well as a pair of pink and white mittens that are believed to have been used by the Alcott girls.
“Seeing items drawn from Fruitlands Museum’s varied collections provides an opportunity to see how different communities solve the same enduring problems of how to stay warm, fed, and entertained during the tough winter months,” adds Rebecca Migdal, who co-curated the exhibition with Dumont. Contemporary objects, such as dried herbs that follow Shaker healing traditions, a shovel, hat, and sled will help round out stories that follow themes of either survival or celebration and connect winters past with winters present.
Comforts, Cures, and Distractions is co-curated by Fruitlands Curator Shana Dumont Garr and Rebecca Migdal.
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Fruitlands Museum, founded in 1914 by Clara Endicott Sears, takes its name from an experimental utopian community led by Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane, which took place on the site in 1843. The campus includes
• The Fruitlands Farmhouse, the site of the experiment in communal living led by Alcott and Lane in 1843
• The Shaker Museum, the first Shaker museum in the country and home to the largest archive of Harvard Shaker documents in the world, housed in an historic building moved here from the Harvard Shaker community
• The Native American Museum, which houses a significant collection of artifacts that honor the spiritual presence and cultural history of the first Americans including New England Native culture and a survey of culture in the Plains, Southwest, and Northwest
• The Art Museum, including a collection of over 100 Hudson River School landscape paintings and over 230 nineteenth-century vernacular portraits, the second largest collection in the country along with a variety of rotating exhibits throughout the year
• The Wayside Visitor Center, exhibiting information on Fruitlands’ landscape and environment and providing classroom space for education programs and classes