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Past Virtual Lectures
2020 Fall Lecture Series
Women Pioneers of American Landscape Architecture
Jim Donahue, Preservation Society Curator of Historic Landscapes & Horticulture
September 10, 2020
Landscape architecture, as a discipline distinct from architecture and as a profession, was not fully realized until the latter part of the 19th century. And while many are familiar with the accomplishments of male practitioners of that era, there were several successful women landscape architects practicing at the turn of the twentieth century who remain relatively unrecognized. This presentation will introduce some of the early ‘Lady L.A.’s’ and their work, using images taken from vintage glass lantern slides from The Garden Club of America Collection at The Smithsonian Institution.
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Jim Donahue holds a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Liberal Arts/Economics and an M.A. in Sustainable Landscape Design & Planning from The Conway School. Jim is the Curator of Historic Landscapes & Horticulture for The Preservation Society of Newport County.
2020 Spring Lecture Series
The John G. Winslow Lecture
Power, Privilege & Preservation: The History of African American Civil Rights in Newport, R.I.
Theresa Guzman Stokes and Keith Stokes
August 27, 2020
In this multimedia presentation, Theresa Guzman Stokes and Keith Stokes will present images of rare documents and photographs depicting African American life in Newport dating back to the 18th century. The presentation will trace the struggle of African Americans to achieve civil rights in Newport, from 18th-century enslavement and emancipation through separate and unequal life during the 19th century, the drive to secure equal access to employment and fair housing in the 20th century up to the social justice movement in 2020. The lecture will also discuss how preservation activities today are changing the kinds of historic places that are recognized and what it means to preserve and interpret them.
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Theresa Guzman Stokes is Executive Director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. Ms. Stokes’ professional background includes magazine editor and published writer with a focus on ethnic American history. She has participated in and supervised dozens of historic preservation, genealogical and cultural resource investigations throughout New England and Virginia, with an expertise in African American, Latin American and Jewish history and genealogy. She also has years of experience in the design and creation of websites and social media promotions tailored around historic, genealogical and creative (arts, literature and music) presentations.
Ms. Stokes has received numerous awards for her web design and genealogical work, including the Women Webmasters Award for Excellence and the Ancestry Connections Genealogy Award. Theresa and her husband, Keith, are the 2006 recipients of the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Tom Roberts Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities. Her current professional memberships include the National Genealogical Society, the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Historical Writers of America, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
Keith Stokes is Vice President with the 1696 Heritage Group, a historical consulting firm dedicated to helping persons and institutions of color increase their knowledge and access to the light of truth of their unique American heritage. The firm draws on extensive knowledge and experience in ethnic American historical research, interpretation, program and product development. See www.1696heritage.com.
Mr. Stokes has a long and distinguished career in business and community development, with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Chicago. He served as the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and Executive Director of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce. He has been an Advisor for Rhode Island with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and has served on regional and national historic preservation boards, including Chairman of the Touro Synagogue Foundation, Vice President and Trustee of The Preservation Society of Newport County, and the Newport Historical Society. He is a frequent national, state and local lecturer in community and regional planning, historic preservation and interpretation with an expertise in early African and Jewish American history, often appears on national historical programs, and recently travelled to Ghana to give a lecture as part of the 400th anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
He has received numerous local, state and national awards including the United States Small Business Administration - Rhode Island Small Business Advocate of the Year Award, American Sail Training Association Leadership Award, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society’s Fredrick Williamson Award, Historic Preservation Award, Rhode Island Martin Luther King Keeper of the Dream Award and, with his wife, received the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities Prize for Creative Achievement in the Humanities.
The Eaddo H. and Peter D. Kiernan Lecture
Let's Get Digital: Exploring and Sharing the Third Floor of The Breakers Through Technology
Sébastien Dutton, Preservation Society 2020 Research Fellow
July 28, 2020
With historic houses, accessibility is often an issue. Considerations regarding accessibility can sometimes present what feel like insurmountable challenges; in some houses, spatial and safety concerns limit the number of people permitted to occupy a space, while other sites restrict access to protect valuable historic material or fragile object collections. Through technology it is now possible to create interactive virtual tours of spaces that are scalable, easy to use and content-rich. Several of these can be found at NewportMansions.org/ /exhibitions/virtual-exhibition-tours. Dutton discusses the process he used to create these tours, and guided viewers through his latest creation: a virtual tour of the third floor of The Breakers. Completed in 1895, this space remains largely intact and has never been open to the public. Participants in this online lecture will be able to see these rooms and spaces for the first time.
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Sébastien Dutton earned his Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oklahoma Baptist University. His studies focused on Business Administration and French language. In May 2019, he received his Master of Arts in Historic Preservation from Boston Architectural College, where he focused his studies on Gilded Age America. Dutton has received three consecutive scholarships to attend the Newport Symposium and once remarked that the inspiration for his pursuit of a Master’s degree was the Preservation Society properties. He is currently working on digitally mapping the interiors of these historic properties.
The People’s House: Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House Restoration Project
Katherine Gilliland, Docent Manager, John F. Kennedy Library
July 16, 2020
When Jacqueline Kennedy became first lady in 1961, she began a project to restore the state rooms of the White House to reflect the artistic and architectural history of the presidential mansion. "Everything in the White House must have a reason for being there...It must be restored -- and that has nothing to do with decoration. That is a question of scholarship," she told Life magazine. She went on to establish a White House Fine Arts Committee made up of experts in historic preservation and decorative arts, and lobbied Congress to pass a law which granted the White House museum status. Don’t miss this behind-the-scenes look at the first lady's project through archival documents and photographs from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library collections.
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Katherine Gilliland has been the docent manager at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for fourteen years. As an educator in the Education and Public Programs Department, she develops docent-led programs for the public and for school groups. She holds an M.A. in art history and museum studies from Tufts University and a B.A. in art history from Carleton College in Minnesota.
The Pamela and David B. Ford Lecture
The Women Who Saved Mount Vernon: The Early Years
Dr. Susan P. Schoelwer, Executive Director of Historic Preservation and Collections, Mount Vernon
July 9, 2020
By 1850, George Washington’s estate along the Potomac River, south of Washington, had slid into disrepair, like many once-stately Virginia plantations, victim to a failing regional economy. A decade later, its purchase by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association marked the beginning of the historic preservation movement in America. From then until now, the story of Mount Vernon’s survival is the story of remarkable women from across the nation, coming together to support a cause.
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Dr. Susan Schoelwer is the Executive Director of Historic Preservation and Collections and Robert H. Smith Senior Curator at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and directs the architectural preservation, furnishing, and interpretation of George and Martha Washington’s house and surrounding plantation buildings and landscape, as well as the creation of museum exhibitions, including the current, award-winning special exhibition, Lives Bound Together: Slavery at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Prior to coming to Mount Vernon as Curator in 2010, Dr. Schoelwer served for more than a decade as head of museum collections at the Connecticut Historical Society, where she authored Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840, winner of the 2011 Connecticut Book Award for Non-Fiction. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale, a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and a BA in history from the University of Notre Dame, where she participated in the historic transition to coeducation. In addition to Mount Vernon and the Washingtons, Dr. Schoelwer has written and lectured on a variety of topics, including American art and decorative arts, needlework, and women’s history. She is currently researching a book examining the creation and continuing re-creation of George Washington portraits.
The Jacalyn and William P. Egan II Lecture
Artistic Wrought Iron in the Gilded Age Mansions of Newport: Design, Technique, and Influences
Mathilde Tollet, Preservation Society Research Fellow
July 2, 2020
The study of artistic wrought iron is often regarded as a kind of “poor cousin” to the fine arts in art history studies, a regrettable state of affairs since such metalwork can be both an inseparable part of the beauty of the architecture, as well as integral to the overall design scheme. Sometimes it can even be a masterpiece in its own right. Examples abound here in Newport at historic properties such as The Breakers, Marble House, and The Elms, providing a springboard for further consideration and discussion of this highly skilled but oft-overlooked art process.
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Mathilde Tollet earned her bachelor's degree in Art History, with a concentration in Decorative Arts, in 2016 from l’Ecole du Louvre in Paris, and received a M.A. in Museology and Conservation in 2018 from l'Ecole du Louvre and the Complutense University in Madrid. She wrote her thesis on the collection of writer and art critic Octave Mirbeau. Tollet was the 2018 French Heritage Society Intern at the Preservation Society and is a current 2020 Preservation Society Research Fellow. She is working on French influences on artistic wrought iron found in the Newport Mansions.
Discriminate Doorknobs: An Inventory of Door Hardware at The Breakers and the Delineation of Spaces using Decorative Details
Sébastien Dutton, Preservation Society Research Fellow
June 25, 2020
The Breakers is a glittering showpiece of art and design, and no architectural detail, regardless how small, was too insignificant to merit serious thought. New original research undertaken by the Preservation Society's 2019-20 Research Fellow Sébastien Dutton provides an eye-opening look at the variety of door hardware used throughout the house, and demonstrates how a multitude of different designs and styles were used to create separation between public and private, family and service spaces. Comparisons with similarly sized homes of the period help to establish whether such lavish variety was commonplace, or whether in this, as in so much else, The Breakers broke the mold.
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Sébastien Dutton earned his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Oklahoma Baptist University. His studies focused on Business Administration and French Language. He received his MA in Historic Preservation in May 2019 from Boston Architectural College, where he focused his studies on Gilded Age America. Dutton has received three consecutive scholarships to attend the Newport Symposium and once remarked that the inspiration for his pursuit of a master's degree was the Preservation Society properties. He is currently working on digitally mapping the interiors of these historic properties.
The News of Newport: Mrs Schuyler Van Rensselaer is Expected for the Season
Dr. Judith Major, Landscape Historian
June 18, 2020
Dr. Judith Major discusses the life of Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer (1851-1934), one of the premier art, architecture, and landscape critics of her day in a field dominated by men. Part of the new breed of American critics, she closely examined the nature of her profession and brought a disciplined scholarship to the craft. She considered herself a professional, leading the effort among women in the Gilded Age to claim the titles of artist, architect, critic, historian, and journalist. She first visited Newport at the age of 13 when her family stayed with her uncle J. N. A. Griswold at his new house at 76 Bellevue Avenue, now the home of the Newport Art Museum, and returned to the city many times during her life. Rarely idle in the summer, she produced numerous articles, books, and poetry while here in Newport, and Dr. Major focuses on that output.
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Judith Major is a landscape historian with a concentration on 19th-century American landscape architecture. Her books include: Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer: the Evolution of a Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age and To Live in the New World: A. J. Downing and American Landscape Gardening, and she lectures widely on Downing and Van Rensselaer. She also contributed a chapter entitled “Toward an American Gardening Theory” to the New York Botanical Garden’s Flora Illustrata, which won the 2015 American Horticultural Society Book Award. She is the recipient of numerous grants including the Mellon Resident Fellowship, a Graham Foundation Grant, and the Samuel H. Kress Publication Fellowship. In 2009 she traveled to China on a University of Kansas grant from its Center for East Asian Studies to lecture and to study Chinese traditional gardens. She is a charter member of the Landscape History Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, and she chairs sessions and gives presentations at national and international conferences. She taught at the University of Kansas for 23 years in the Architecture Program and ended her academic career at Kansas State in the Department of Landscape Architecture, retiring as a Professor Emerita in 2014.
Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener
Kimberly A. Hamlin, Ph.D, Historian, Author, Writer
May 21, 2020
This online lecture is about Helen Hamilton Gardener, a free-thinking woman who was a force to be reckoned with in her male-dominated world. Kimberly Hamlin, Ph.D., discusses her book, "Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener." Gardener devoted her life to championing women’s rights and decrying the sexual double standard. Opposed to piety, temperance, and conventional thinking, she eventually settled in Washington, D.C., where her tireless work proved, according to her suffrage colleagues, “the most potent factor” in the passage of the 19th Amendment.
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Kimberly A. Hamlin, Ph.D. is an award-winning historian, speaker, and writer. Her book received support from a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award and the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics. Appointed to the Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer Bureau, Hamlin speaks about the history of women, gender, and sex across the country. A regular contributor to the Washington Post, Hamlin’s research has also been featured on various NPR and CBC radio programs, Vice, qz.com, among other outlets, and she has contributed to several PBS documentaries. Hamlin is currently helping to organize commemorations of the 2020 suffrage centennial, and she serves as historical consultant to the Bearded Lady Project, now on view at the National Museum of Natural History. Hamlin lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she co-hosts the Mercantile Library’s “Women You Should Know” Book Discussion Series and is associate professor of History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Hamlin received her BA from Georgetown University and her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. She is also the author of From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (University of Chicago Press, 2014) and numerous scholarly articles. She is the recipient of the History of Science Society’s Margaret Rossiter Award for Research on Women and Science and the 19th Century Studies Association’s Emerging Scholar Award, as well as research fellowships from the Schlesinger and Countway Libraries at Harvard, Duke University, and the Huntington Library, among others.
Edith Wharton’s Revolution: Architecture, Interiors and Fiction
Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor in Architectural History at UVA
May 7, 2020
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote many novels, among them House of Mirth (1905), Custom of the Country (1913), and The Age of Innocence (1920), that contained close examinations of manners and the settings where people resided. She explained in her 1923 Yale University honorary doctorate talk: “The impression produced by a landscape, a street or a house should always, to the novelist, be an event in the history of the soul.” Her novels are filled with descriptions of rooms and architectural details and styles, and indeed, the settings she describes in her fiction are integral to understanding her writing. Her first book, The Decoration of Houses (1897), co-authored with Ogden Codman Jr. and written partially in Newport, was one of the most important books ever written in the United States about the treatment of interiors. This virtual lecture examines Edith Wharton’s interest in architecture and the decorative arts with references to many houses, including her own in Newport, New York and The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts.
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Richard Guy Wilson is the Commonwealth Professor in Architectural History at the University of Virginia and received the university’s Outstanding Professor award in 2001. A frequent lecturer for universities, museums and professional groups, he has been a TV commentator for PBS and A&E, including America’s Castles, served as a curator for museum exhibitions and published 16 books, including The American Renaissance, McKim, Mead & White, Architects and Edith Wharton at Home. He directs the Victorian Society in America’s 19th Century Summer School in Newport.
Forever Seeing New Beauties: Mary Rogers Williams
Eve Kahn, Historian, Journalist
April 30, 2020
The artist Mary Rogers Williams (1857-1907), a baker's daughter from Hartford, Connecticut, biked and hiked from the Arctic Circle to Naples, exhibited from Paris to Indianapolis, trained at the Art Students League, chafed against art world rules that favored men, wrote thousands of pages about her travels and work, taught at Smith College for nearly two decades, but sadly ended up almost totally obscure. In this lecture, Eve Kahn explores how she was able to trace Williams’ adventures, and what insights can be gleaned from the paintings and pastels of a pensive gowned women, Norwegian slopes reflected in icy waters, saw-tooth rooflines on French chateaus, and incense hazes in Italian chapels.
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Eve Kahn, a noted historian and journalist, is most well known for her weekly Antiques column that ran in The New York Times from 2008 to 2016. As a writer, scholar and exhibition adviser, Kahn specializes in art, architecture, design and preservation. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and lectures regularly in New York, New England and elsewhere. Adding to her accolades, Kahn is also an accomplished author. Her latest project and book is Forever Seeing New Beauties: The Forgotten Impressionist Mary Rogers Williams 1857-1907 (Wesleyan University Press, 2019).