Picturing the Past

Painting by Nancy Davis

The Ephraim Historical Foundation, founded in 1949 to preserve and share the stories of this Door County community, began collecting art by local artists soon after its inception.  The pieces in this collection are both art and historical artifact; in many ways, art is as useful in learning about history as a photograph or a postcard.  A painting of Ephraim from 1900, for example, depicts the local landscape in a unique way, with the artist’s singular perspective.  Such an image shows changes to the built and natural environments and can even capture moments from daily life such as historic modes of transportation or clothing.  When examined both through artistic and historical lenses, countless stories emerge from a single piece of art.

The Anderson Barn Museum’s 2018 exhibit, titled Picturing the Past: The Ephraim Historical Foundation’s Art Collection, will feature art from the EHF’s extensive permanent collection.  Visitors to the Ephraim Historical Foundation are often surprised by the number of paintings on the walls of the organization’s museums and offices.  Historical institutions traditionally collect items like garments, household goods, and furnishings from the past, but it is less common to find a historical society with an extensive art collection.  Currently, the EHF has over 100 pieces in its collection, including paintings, drawings, jewelry, pottery, and much more.  Picturing the Past will feature around 50 of these pieces, ranging from the mid-1800s to today.

This exhibit emerged from a project that began in fall 2017.  Art historian Virginia Jones Maher, EHF staff, and author Paul Burton began work on a publication featuring the EHF’s collection.  Both the book and the exhibit organize the selected pieces into the following categories: Seascapes, Landscapes, Portraits, Rural Scenes, and Landmarks.

The exhibit opens Friday, June 15, on Ephraim Heritage Day.  The publication is available for purchase in our online store and at our museums.

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin

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