Collectors Collecting Collections


Highfield opens the exciting new Winter 2022 season with an expertly curated one-of-a-kind exhibition exploring the time-honored tradition of collecting.

What one collects, why, and how one collects, will be explored throughout 2022 in the curated series of four installations titled, Collectors Collecting Collections. Whether an artistic, scientific, eccentric, or sentimental pursuit, collecting has been a passion for centuries, and understanding why people collect has been a topic of interest for many of those years.

The exhibition series was inspired by information gleaned from the Beebe Family Archive stored by the Falmouth Historical Society and Museums on the Green, where personal and business correspondence, inventories, and auction catalogs reveal what interested the sons and daughters of James Madison Beebe. Those documents confirmed a fervent interest in flowers, plants and bulbs, fine art, travel souvenirs, freshly grown food, and subscriptions to music and ballet performances, and more which coincidentally, are fundamental to the programming mission of Highfield Hall & Gardens today.

As objects and materials fade from memory, new trends in collecting emerge. Collection categories evolve too as manufacturing and technology effect consumer habits. Today collectors have more resources to fuel their passion, with a simple tap of a key the world is within reach, offering people of all ages and all backgrounds to participate in an adventure of collecting.

Thematically organized, the collection series will launch February 9, 2022 with Part 1 featuring collections reflecting the “Natural World.” The winter display will include pages from the 1953 herbarium of plants that once grew around Highfield Hall; selected plates from a facsimile of The Temple of Flora, the stunning collection of botanical illustrations produced by Robert Thornton between 1799-1807. An original edition was given to the Falmouth Public Library by E. Pierson Beebe and it demonstrates his passion for plants and his generosity. An artist series of birch trees growing in two forests drawn and painted by artist Linda Eckstein adds a woodland vibe to the galleries, spectacular hand painted lacquer boxes illustrated with traditional folk tales and nature imagery from Russia bring richness to the corner of the ballroom. A cabinet of curiosities and its menagerie of animals and rare artifacts introduces visitors to the theme, ‘collecting as a pursuit.’

Collecting Fashion and Decorative Arts

Part 2: April 19 – June 19, 2022

This series on collecting is equal parts who, what, and why of collecting. When the three parts mix, the storytelling begins.

A collection can be defined simply, as multiple objects in one genre or category. However, each collector engages in a unique pursuit, employs their own method of categorization and organization, refining and editing as collections grow. Displaying and living with collections is always active, never static. A collection could serve as a conceptual timeline of the collector’s life. significant memories, reminders of childhood, a pivotal moment in life, souvenirs of an important event, remembering a special person, or capturing the fleeting images of travel. Add to that a sense of humor, and you have fuel for a collector’s eye.

Collecting is a consuming passion. Most collectors of fashion and decorative arts enjoy a lifetime pursuit of their treasures. These collectors share admiration of
history. They focus their love and appreciation on the materials, techniques, skills, and artisanship necessary to produce the array of applied arts. Yet, collecting like
collectors do is not dry, logical, or academic, because of the personal feelings that drive their mission to collect. Their passion creates their collection, and the knowledge and enjoyment of the collection re-fuels their passion for more.

Lenders and individuals contributing to the series include The Falmouth Public Library, Museums on the Green, numerous private collectors, and artists from New England and New York.

Family Time and Travel and Tourist Ephemera

Part 3: June 24 – August 29, 2022

The collections in the third rotation will be composed of paper reflecting the ephemera theme. Selections from the Museum on the Green’s collection of Highfield Theater posters, summer camp brochures, plus early 20th century posters and advertisements for Cape and Falmouth related events and amusements, the Barnstable County Fair and Strawberry festival will be on display. Additionally, paper toys, card games, paper dolls, coloring books, paper village will be available for viewing. Souvenirs of travel including ocean liner menus from the 1930s, artwork made from saved ticket stubs and other quotidian and conversational objects will be included in this exhibit.

Sentimental Nostalgic Keepsakes

Part 4: August 29, 2022

Collections will include pipes and snuff boxes from two different collectors who are carrying on a family tradition. Some of the other “collections” will include household linens, shawls, and Handkerchiefs. Upcycling will be a common denominator among the artists who will be show their contemporary work. Artist Kirsten Hasselfeld will demonstrate her repurposing of saved and treasured textiles into contemporary sculpture. Chris Volpe will show paintings done in a ‘tin-type’ style and framed in 19th century miniature frames. Another component will include Somebody Photographed This – a collection saved from being trashed that includes unnamed photographs from a Western Massachusetts photographer ( organized by Terri Cappucci).

Memory and Connecting

The year of ‘collections’ concludes with Memory and Connecting by uniting fine artists who incorporate collected objects into their art with individuals whose life-
long collecting passions were sparked by childhood activities accompanied with their families. Collecting art made by children is a new category in this rotation, and one to inspire youth to continue to make art of any kind. Each collection continues the memory of personal experience or creates something new yet resonates with the past. The collecting series is equal parts who, what, and why of collecting. See Christopher Volpe’s Keepsakes collection of miniature paintings in oil and tar in the gallery below.

This exhibit was made possible through the generous support of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod

Featuring a special installation of art by local artist Kat Brennan