The curator takes Manhattan


Greetings from New York City (above, a view of Rockefeller Center ice rink from my hotel).  I am currently on a scouting trip to New York during Americana Week – the time in late-January when all the big auction houses have their sales and the major antique shows are running.  After arriving yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the New York Ceramics Fair and today it is the Winter Antiques Show and whatever else I may be able to squeeze in.  We’re not bidding on anything at any of the major auctions, so this time it’s just the shows for me.

So what exactly do I do at these shows?  Well, I talk to people and I look at things.  Those are the two main activities.  Before I left Virginia, I made a binder of information related to items that I’m looking for, including pictures and information gleaned from Lee family records like inventories.  This trip the focus is on ceramics and specifically items found via archaeology (above – like the rat’s nest – or below ground).  If you’ve been to our new slave quarter exhibits, you know that we have archaeology on display.  Two fragments of white salt-glazed stoneware are on view (above) and I’m looking to find whole examples to display in the slave quarter rooms.
Talking and scouting yesterday led to this plate:  an English white salt-glaze plate with molded rim.  Can you see where these fragments might have fit?
I’m also looking for the more rare finds.  Like the Chinese export porcelain pattern we found in the rat’s nest with a pair of crabs on it.  Or the agateware tea bowl found in the West Yard and now on display in our new Southwest Outbuilding exhibits.  No luck so far.  So I give out my card, gather e-mail addresses, and will send dealers pictures of the fragments so they can help keep a lookout for examples in the marketplace.  Keep your fingers crossed for me today and I’ll be sure to report back if any interesting finds come my way.