Decorative Arts Trust Internship Grant to Focus on John Ashley House

Posted in on site by Editor on November 23, 2022

Photograph of a two-story clapboard house, painted gray with two red brick chimneys.

John Ashley House, Sheffield, Massachusetts (photo from Wikimedia Commons, July 2007). Built in 1735, the house is owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations.

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As an anchor site of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, the Ashley House is important for its connection to Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), who was enslaved there before suing for–and winning–her freedom in 1781 under Massachusetts’ newly ratified state constitution. Readers may recall that a statue of Freeman was unveiled in Sheffield just a few months ago.

From The Decorative Arts Trust press release:

The Decorative Arts Trust is pleased to announce that The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees) of Boston, MA, will serve as our 2023–25 Curatorial Internship Grant partner.

Watercolor portrait of a woman wearing a blue empire-waist dress, a white scarf at her shoulders, a necklace, and a white bonnet.

Susan Ridley Sedgwick, Portrait of Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), ca. 1812, watercolor on ivory (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society).

The two-year internship will focus on the Colonel John Ashley House in Sheffield, MA. The house’s importance primarily derives from a connection with Mum Bett, an enslaved woman who sued Ashley for her freedom along with an enslaved man named Brom. The intern will lead an in-depth analysis of the objects contained within the Ashley House with the aim to create easy access to all records through the Trustees’ new online collections interface. The intern will also develop a furnishing plan for the Ashley House that synthesizes a refined understanding of the contents and the interiors in which they are displayed. Based in Stockbridge at the Trustees’ Mission House, the intern will work alongside the organization’s highly regarded curatorial staff, including Christie Jackson, Director of Collections, and Mark Wilson, Associate Curator.

The Decorative Arts Trust is a nonprofit organization that underwrites curatorial internships for recent Masters or PhD graduates in collaboration with museums and historical societies. These internships allow host organizations to hire a deserving professional who will learn about the responsibilities and duties common to the curatorial field while working alongside a talented mentor.

The Trustees is the oldest conservation and preservation nonprofit of its kind in the country and the largest in Massachusetts, where it has protected 123 diverse sites, spanning more than 27,000 acres, including 20 historic houses and more than 50,000 objects.

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