Society shows stash of unseen treasures

April 07, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

The attic, the closets, even the beds at the Miller House are full of hidden treasures.

"We have stuff stashed in every spot you can think of in this house," said Mindy Marsden, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

This week the historical society opened its first rotating exhibit at the Miller House in approximately 15 years, displaying needlework treasures that have been kept in storage most of the time, Marsden said.

Museum officials have been reviewing the inventory donated by local residents over the years and have six exhibits planned for display before summer 2001.


"We have this wonderful trove of things that people don't see," Marsden said.

In late June a display of summertime artifacts such as parasols, fans and bathing suits will open. That will be followed after Labor Day with an exhibit of political memorabilia in time for the presidential election and a Turn of the Century exhibit during the Christmas season.

Early next year the Miller House will feature exhibits on lighting and wedding items, Marsden said.

The current exhibit on needlework opened Wednesday and will run through June 3.

The exhibit features several needlework samplers, beaded purses, quilts and more intricate drawn work in which the artist pulled threads out of the fabric and stitched designs such as stars and spider webs.

The black thread in a needlework sampler from 1835 has partially disintegrated because iron oxide was used in the black dye, Marsden said.

Upstairs a bed that has about 15 quilts stacked on it now is topped with a crazy quilt with pieces are stitched together at odd angles.

A quilt made in 1889 has advertisements stitched into the pattern, including a ribbon from the Ladies Fair at Antietam Fire Co. in 1887.

In the same room is a decorative table cloth Curator Elizabeth Graff believes is Japanese. It has gold-leaf or imitation gold threads couched in the shape of a bird.

The gold threads are couched or held onto the fabric by stitching an orangish-red thread around the gold every so often to hold it in place, Graff said.

The exhibit also has two fire screens from the 1870s to 1890s. The fire screens were used to protect people's faces from the heat so their makeup wouldn't melt, Graff said. People often wore heavy makeup to cover blemishes such as pockmarks from smallpox, she said.

One screen is made of blue and white glass beads, while the other is made of yarn. An olive patch on the yarn screen shows how the artist used different black dyes that faded differently, Graff said.

The Miller House at 135 W. Washington St. is open for tours between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens 60 and older, and free for children younger than 16.

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