Director's Message Summer 2020
Headshot of Vivian Zoe, Director of the Slater Memorial Museum
As we reach the fourth month of social distancing, the museum closure and the end of the academic year, I offer my greetings to our faithful members and their families and friends. I truly hope all have been safe and well during these weeks. Because we were forced to cancel our spring programs, including the Friends of Slater Museum Annual Meeting, I would like to offer some reports and updates.

We’ve all learned much more than we ever dreamed (and possibly hoped), not only about our capacity to adapt, but about ways to entertain and enlighten ourselves yet stay safe. The Slater Museum has been honored to contribute to these, like so many of our colleague institutions.

As many of you know, we were three days from opening our newly re-imagined, re-interpreted and re-installed Vanderpoel Gallery of Asian Art with many objects never before on display. Soon, we will, at a minimum, be able to share images of it. In the meantime, please enjoy a small taste and, if you’re able, go online to view the digital exhibition of our fabulous Netsuke collection. Naturally, we still plan to install and host the opening, in the future, of the new Class of 1968 Gallery in the Atrium. Stay tuned for more news of that.

We have been working to make available online all of our printed material, including catalogues, gallery guides and features about individual objects and exhibitions. Our goal is to increase access to the content while making future visitors feel safe. Dayne Rugh has created a weekly YouTube Channel, featuring a new object and its story. Look also on YouTube and Channel 14 (Comcast Community Access) for a special program about the Slater Museum.

Dayne has also created an online docent training website to continue the program that began in January. It’s been used to teach our new and current docents virtually as well as to share digital resources to expand our content development.
We continue to work toward transitioning many of our education programs, lessons and gallery guides to be accessible online.

In addition to the opening of the new Vanderpoel Gallery of Asian Art, we were forced to cancel the annual meeting of the Friends of Slater Museum, but here are some highlights from the year.

Fifteen new schools and organizations made group visits between Summer 2019 and the shutdown. A successful highlight was the second hosting of the regional competitions for Connecticut National History Day on March 7. It is satisfying to report that with museum guidance and oversight, two NFA students went on to the Connecticut National History Day State Competition, reaching in Third Place here with their presentation on Norwich native and NFA alumnus Edwin H. Land.
We took our docents to Mystic Seaport to see the Turner exhibition and to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to see the Frank Gardner Hale jewelry pieces, as well as their exhibition “Ancient Nubia.”

Some highlights from collections acquisitions include, from the Burns Library at Boston College, a Durand Dulcimer, made in Norwich, CT. Ezra Durand (1833- ) was a music teacher, probably itinerant or operating transient classes. At some point, he met William Vogel in Michigan, where his parents lived. Vogel was a cabinet maker and the two paid taxes in Detroit, MI as peddler and “retail Dealer.” In 1864 and 1865, Durand is listed as “manufacturer” and Vogel as peddler. By 1867-68, Durand is listed in Michigan as “dealer in music and musical instruments,” but by 1866 he had sold his property in Michigan and arrived in Stonington, CT by early 1868. Around the same time, Durand’s “Dulcimer Without Master Containing the Elements of Music, and Complete Instruction …” was published in Boston (Ditson & Company). Ezra Durand and his brothers David and John joined the company as tuner, manufacturer and dealer, respectively.

A very large and diverse group of Asian objects was donated by Joan and Michael Gordon including ceramics, textiles, metalwork and enamels. They arrived just in time for several fine pieces to be included in the Asian exhibition, where they await our returning visitors!

I want to assure our members, supporters and visitors that we will re-open. We have established a panel that is working on the measures that will need to be taken before this can happen, to ensure that visitors and staff are safe and feel safe. Once the plan has been finalized and approved by experts, we will let everyone know and we will welcome you back.

As a final comment, I’d personally like to offer a huge note of thanks to the NFA Information Technology (IT) Department, whose staff have made it possible for us to work safely from home and to reach our supporters.