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Awful or Amazing: Understanding Victorian furniture's bad rap

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Posted on September 12, 2016 |
By Addison Independent



Library table, HNE.jpg
Library Table, 1865-1875. Photo courtesy of Historic New England.

MIDDLEBURY — This Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Henry Sheldon Museum and its alliance partner Historic New England will try to figure out if Victorian furniture is a work of creative genius, or just plain ugly. The talk “Victorian Furniture: Design Run Amok or Inspired Creativity?” will be given by Nancy Carlisle, who is the Historic New England Senior Curator of Collections, at the town of Middlebury’s new Town Offices, 77 Main St., across from the Sheldon Museum.

For decades, Victorian furniture has been reviled by designers and taste makers. Drawing examples from Historic New England’s extensive furniture collection, Carlisle will present an illustrated lecture exploring the highs and lows of Victorian furniture design. She will suggest that its bad rap has more to do with late nineteenth-century attitudes than with the quality of the furniture itself.

Carlisle has worked for close to 30 years at Historic New England. Through her research, writings and public programs, she uses stories associated with the collections to encourage people to make personal connections with history. She is the author of the award-winning book Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy and the co-author with Melinda Nassardinov of America’s Kitchens.

Carlisle’s talk complements the Sheldon Museum’s distinguished furniture collection that spans three centuries, thus neatly illustrating the evolution in style and workmanship that took place in America between the early 1700s and the early 1900s. The local origins of most of the Sheldon’s furniture make the collection a valuable resource for the study of regional tastes and techniques.

It’s $8 to attend the talk, unless you’re a Henry Sheldon Museum or Historic New England member ? then it’s free. Reservations and advance payment requested. Call the Sheldon at (802) 388-2117 to reserve a space.

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