June 11, 2019

Explore Historic Sites’ Beautiful Art and Objects—Without Leaving Your Home

Today, forward-thinking museums are turning to the digital realm to make their collections, and the stories they tell, accessible to new and far-reaching audiences. And in the process, those museums are expanding their traditional roles and creating innovative ways to engage digitally with our past, present, and future—inspiring people to visit in person and learn even more.

In May 2019, the National Trust launched our own online museum collection that encompasses significant objects from 21 of our Historic Sites across the country.

Box shaped with round top, wooden handle that turns drum, club-shaped pierced holes, and wrought iron curved legs.

photo by: Belle Grove

A coffee grinder at Belle Grove in Virginia, part of the American kitchens online exhibit.

The website not only makes these unique interpretive spaces more accessible, it also opens the door to telling a collective, dynamic story about our history and our national identity. While you can easily find specific objects by using the search box, the collection website offers much more than that.

Bronze head of "Italian Youth." Male with scarf covering head and tied at nape. Subject's head is held up and turned slightly to his right. Rectangular wood base with step-molding.

photo by: Chesterwood/Margaret Chester French/B. Zoppo Foundry

"Bronze Head of Italian Youth" by Margaret French Cresson, daughter of Daniel Chester French, at Chesterwood in Massachusetts.

Embroidery sample, early 19th century. Needlework sample measuring approximately 6" square with 1" fringe on each edge.

photo by: Cliveden

An early 19th-century embroidery sample at Philadelphia's Cliveden. This and the bronze statue are part of a larger women artists exhibit.

“This website presents our collection in a series of curated virtual exhibits that highlight objects at individual sites and through themed exhibits that combine objects from multiple sites,” says Carrie Villar, acting vice president of Historic Sites at the National Trust.

At Villa Finale, for example, the Texana Art exhibit features the works of Western artists, who were once overlooked as provincial in the art world. Individual works, like a 1927 tryptic by Mary Bonner, include more detailed information about the artist's medium and background, as well as the piece's historic significance.

Poplar chest with 20th-century painted floral decoration of tulips in urns. The tulip design is similar to designs on chests in Germany.

photo by: Belle Grove

A poplar blanket chest with 20th-century painted floral decorations of tulips in urns at Belle Grove.

The curated exhibits that include works from multiple Historic Sites tell an even broader story—that of the American experience. Right now, you can explore two cross-Site exhibits: one about the American kitchen and domestic labor, and another about women artists throughout the nation's history.

Pair of black, blue, red, yellow, green and white striped open high heels with strap and elastic band, buckle at side. Open, pointed toe with flower form and same material inside.

photo by: Lyndhurst/Delman Inc.

A pair of Bergdorf Goodman heels at New York's Lyndhurst that Anna Gould would have worn. Gould wore distinctive hats and shoes throughout her life.

Frank Stella's "Lanckorona II," a mixed-media painting including fabric, felt, and acrylic on canvas.

photo by: Glass House/Frank Stella

At Phillip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut is this mixed-media painting by Frank Stella, from the artist's Polish Village series.

The kitchen exhibit shows how the space operated at the center of the American home, but also that the room’s form, function, and design vary depending on a variety of factors such as geography, class, and era. The women in art exhibit highlights the work and legacies of women artists, including their struggle for recognition over the course of history and in textual accounts of that history.

These cross-Site exhibits, according to Villar, “allow us to explore new storytelling and interpretation beyond our physical boundaries to engage new audiences with the collection.”

The online collection museum is an ongoing process as National Trust curators continue to add more objects and new exhibits, so be sure to check back often.

Explore the stories behind these fascinating objects and exhibits online—then head to a Historic Site near you!

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Carson Bear was an Editorial Coordinator at the National Trust. She’s passionate about combining popular culture with historic places, and loves her 200-year-old childhood farmhouse in Pennsylvania.

National Trust Historic Sites are open! We encourage you to check directly with each site for up-to-date information on available activities, ticketing, and guidelines if you are planning a visit.

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