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Art gallery object records

Identifier: stja-006

Scope and Content Note

Includes correspondence, contracts, reports, photographs (slides, negatives, 4 x 5" color transparencies, prints), research notes, catalogs, clippings, and invoices about specific objects, their provenance, contexts, loans, rights and reproductions, and conservation treatments.

The records are organized into four series: I. Fine Art; II. Furnishings and Decorative Arts; III. Special Collections; and IV. Related Topics.


  • 1873-2002

Language of Materials



Some restrictions on public use apply to conservation, insurance, loan and rights and reproductions folders. Folders are restricted until 30 years after the transaction date.

Publication Rights:

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Archives.

Background Note

The records reflect curatorial activities at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum from its founding in 1873 to 2002. Various staff members including library directors and executive directors have fulfilled the curatorial functions over time. After founder Horace Fairbanks died in 1880, his widow Mary Taylor Fairbanks evidently wrote to artists asking about works in the collection and the circumstances in which they were acquired by Mr. Fairbanks for the Athenaeum. Other early curatorial activities conducted by library staff include responding to queries about the collection, arranging for photograph requests, and creating exhibit catalogs (1875, 1890).

Survey, appraisal and conservation treatment work began with the development of the relationship with H. Morton Vose of Vose Galleries of Boston in the 1970's. Several professional surveys were completed with grant funding. In 1982 and 1983 the Art Conservation Lab, Inc. did surveys of the collection and some conservation treatment of paintings. Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory began conservation survey work on the collection in 1984, completing it in 1985. The surveys established priorities for treatment, which the Athenaeum has implemented in subsequent years. The Athenaeum became a member of the Williamstown Regional Art Conservation Laboratory consortium in 1985.

Librarian Jean Marcy (1973-1987) handled many of the art gallery activities until the hiring of contract consulting curator Philip Grime, who served from 1984-1985. He was succeeded by Salee Lawrence, who served as a trustee of the Athenaeum and chair of the newly formed Collections Committee, beginning in 1984, and as consulting curator from 1989-2000. In 2001 the trustees created a new position, Manager of Curatorial Activities and Ann Lawless was hired in April 2001.

Ms. Lawrence initiated the Friends of the Athenaeum Art Gallery and undertook fundraising initiatives and special events (Gallery Gala, Adopt A Painting, Adopt A Treasure) as a means of raising money for conservation and interpretation. Ms. Lawrence developed the interpretation program by starting a docent program, creating audio tapes about the collection, a guide sheet for visitors, and reprinting the ca 1970 gallery catalog. Using the documentary photographs, Ms. Lawrence initiated a sales program of note cards and posters reproduced from images of the collection, and an in-house rights and reproductions program. In 1991 Ms. Lawrence began an education program initially for St. Johnsbury school children, called Focus on Art, and organized regularly scheduled docent trainings and public lectures about the collection.

Ms. Lawrence learned about collections management through attending workshops and she undertook collections management projects such as documenting the collection through photography, assigning permanent numbers, rewiring and rehanging the collection, initiating a monitoring program to record temperature and relative humidity in the gallery, and creating a computerized data base to record information about the collection to create an unpublished catalogue. (The computer file and catalog were superseded by a subsequent version created in 2001.)

With the coming of Perry Viles as Executive Director in 1993, a major focus was writing the National Historic Landmark nomination. The CAP grant of 1992 funded architect John Mesick to develop an architectural assessment which laid the foundation for writing the nomination. National Historic Landmark designation was achieved in 1996.


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Includes records relating to the interpretation and conservation of individual paintings, works on paper, furnishings, rare books, photograph collections, and other objects in the collection of the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum .

Physical Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please contact the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Archives.

Guide to the Art gallery object records, 1873 - 2002 (bulk 1973-2002)
Processor: Ann Lawless (Manager of Curatorial Activities), Elaine Garrison, Mary Dole, Tom Dole, and Polly Darnell (Consulting Archivist).
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Repository Details

Part of the The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum Archives Repository

1171 Main St.
St. Johnsbury Vermont 05819
(802) 748.8291