The Villa Finale visitor’s center on Madison Street, just a few blocks away from the museum, will be, among other things, an exhibition gallery where we’ll be able to explore themes not addressed in the house, and display things that we’d like to highlight from the collection and objects that, because of space restrictions, just can’t be exhibited anywhere else.
The staff at Villa Finale began, quite a while ago, creating a list of possible exhibitions and thinking about which objects would adequately represent Villa Finale in a venue that wasn’t Villa Finale. The first exhibition installed will be our permanent exhibition about Mr. Mathis, his role in preservation, Villa Finale and King William. Since the visitor’s center will be open well before the museum, the second, changing exhibition, will act as a preview for the museum. Our plan is to exhibit photos of the museum rooms, as the public will see them upon opening, and exhibit key objects from each room.
Therein lies the problem. Which objects? The task has been given to me to figure this out. At least initially. I have chosen six or seven objects per room, adding up to a grand total of about 115 objects. The idea was to choose two per room, but I can’t help it. It is more complicated than just taking the prettiest, or most valuable. Shouldn’t they reflect the room they are in? Shouldn’t they speak of Mr. Mathis? Shouldn’t they tell the story of a house that was lived in?
Together as a staff, we will review the choices I’ve made. I’m not sure we’ll all agree on the jar of Mr. Mathis’s pasta I’ve picked for the kitchen. But, juxtaposed with an elegant black jasperware Wedgwood ewer, it really says “Mr. Mathis” and “Villa Finale” at the same time!
And now for other news from the Curtatorial Department:
Next week, a loan will be returned to us from President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC. Last June, I sent two Lincoln items to our fellow National Trust Historic Site to be included in their exhibition “A Deep and Subtle Expression”. The exhibition examined artists’ attempts to capture the soul of Lincoln through sculpture. The museum asked for a glass bust of Lincoln made by Gillinder and Sons Glass Company for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and an opalescent paperweight depicting Lincoln, based on his Mount Rushmore portrait. You can find out more about the cottage at www.lincolncottage.org The loan was our first, and we hope there are many more. We will undoubtedly ask for those of other museums for our exhibitions.
There are thousands of interesting objects within Villa Finale’s collection and not all can be individually exhibited, so the staff decided it would be a good idea to put a large number of them on the museum’s website. I think about 2000 will make the initial cut, and maybe one day, all of them will be on-line. It will not only be interesting for the general public, but a great resource for scholars and researchers. Right now, I am reviewing the descriptions of many of the objects I think should be included and will most likely, with my trusty volunteer Merribell Parsons, make the descriptions a bit more informative and beefy. Keep an eye out for their debut!