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Old Sturbridge Village has a remarkable collection of early American objects - the furniture, tools, clothing, toys, decorative arts and other artifacts of life in rural, inland New England during the period 1790 to 1840.

Old Sturbridge Village regularly hosts Collectors' Forums in order to focus on this collection, bringing together curators, experts, collectors and the public to examine a large sampling from the collection and learn about new scholarship and perspectives on the collection. This annual event is being held in conjunction with the opening of our new exhibit, Kindred Spirits: A.B. Wells, Malcolm Watkins and the Origins of Old Sturbridge Village.

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Connoisseurs of Vermont antiques have long sought to dispel notions that the furniture is rustic, and that the makers were eccentrics living on the edges of the wilderness. In the last few decades, historians and collectors have unearthed evidence that the state’s early woodworkers, even those farming in remote spots, kept up with trends in design, materials and tools. An exhibition surveying these sophisticated pieces, “Rich and Tasty: Vermont Furniture to 1850,” opens on July 25 at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

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The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) at Old Salem Museums & Gardens have embarked on a five-year collaboration that will involve extended reciprocal loans. The institutions got a head start on their agreement with the joint exhibition Painters and Paintings in the Early American South, which is currently on view at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. Nine major paintings from MESDA’s collection are part of the exhibition while several objects from the Art Museums of Williamsburg’s holdings are already on view at MESDA.

The objects involved in the reciprocal loan agreement include clocks, high chests, paintings, silver coffee pots, and much more. Many of the objects from MESDA’s collection on loan to Colonial Williamsburg will be presented as part of the long-term exhibition A Rich and Varied Culture: The Material World of the Early South, which is expected to go on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, one of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, in January 2014. The show will present a range of furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, tools, machines, and architectural elements.

Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president for collections, conservation, and museums and the Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator, said, “This is the age of partnerships. With partnerships everyone wins: the institutions, the public, the scholarly world…so why not do it? Both [the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg and MESDA] have some remarkable objects temporarily off view. Why not show them at a sister institution?”

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