Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Curatorial Intern at Stratford

My project this summer, as Gretchen’s intern, is to research the Lee family silver at Stratford to learn more about the Lees by way of the serving tools they used and the silver purchases that they made. As only a few pieces of Stratford Lee silver are known at this point, one of my main tasks is to find Lee silver in other collections, both public and private. This will help us develop a fuller picture of the original silver used by the Stratford Lees. At this point, word is out, and several institutions have responded noting that they have Lee pieces that may be of interest to Stratford. In late August, I will travel to Lee Chapel to research the Lee silver in that collection, and I am currently corresponding with Arlington House to learn more about their silver collection. The Society of the Lees of Virginia has also generously offered to announce our research effort in the upcoming August newsletter. Our hope is that Society members might notify us of other Stratford Lee pieces. In addition to my detective work, I am investigating the pieces within the collection—in particular the makers—to learn more about the buying patterns of the Lee family. I have also been rifling through Lee family letters, wills, inventories, and such to find mention of silver objects to determine what specific items the family owned and used.

The staff at Stratford has made the intern experience both educational and interesting, and has offered opportunities for us to meet with other professionals in the field. Recently, the interns took a field trip with Phil to Colonial Williamsburg to visit with conservator Susan Buck. I will return to Colonial Williamsburg in a few weeks with Gretchen to meet with the textiles curator, Linda Baumgarten.

As this is my first trip to Virginia and I am far from my home in Texas, I have been exploring the area on weekend trips, such as the battlefield at Fredericksburg, George Washington’s birthplace, and Mount Vernon. Just a few weekends ago, Kat, Kate, Abby, and I glided along the Potomac on kayaks from Westmoreland State Park. I realize that the new will eventually wear off, but I still squeal when I see a bald eagle, one of the many deer grazing at Stratford, or a raccoon peering in the window. (I have been squealing quite a bit, actually, because the insect population here in the Virginia woods is abundant, and the specimens are large!)

From researching Lee silver to touring the Northern Neck and more on the weekends, I have appreciated the opportunity to live and work at Stratford. While here, I have learned much about the Lee family and am developing a better understanding of the historic house museum as an institution. I look forward to my remaining weeks here—it has been a great pleasure to collaborate with the personable and professional team at Stratford.

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