Holy Cross Honors Our Country’s Rich History
by Brian Goslow
For its latest exhibition, the College of the Holy Cross’ Cantor Gallery utilizes the collections of four major New England depositories of history — the cross-town American Antiquarian Society (AAS) and Worcester Historical Museum, Old Sturbridge Village and the Rhode Island Historical Society — plus private lenders.
The show’s curator is Professor of Art History Patricia Johnston, Rev. J. Gerard Mears, S.J., Chair in Fine Arts at Holy Cross, who utilized students from a curatorial seminar held last fall in which participants spent one afternoon a week working with staff from the aforementioned institutions, setting out to find “what did early Americans know about the rest of the world, and how did interactions with other cultures make an impact on American arts?” They focused primarily on the emergence of direct trade with China, India and the rest of Asia after the American Revolution.
The AAS is the perfect source for answers to this question, with its avowed mission to collect all materials printed in the United States up and prior to 1876 currently at 60 percent complete it has contributed approximately 50 items to the show including maps, atlases, engravings, book illustrations and ephemera documenting mercantilism of the period (think today’s register receipts, ATM slips or mail solicitations from local merchants), including a sales slip for tea and an ad for false teeth from a Boston dentist, giving insight into what is was to live in those times.