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Current Exhibits
at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum

  • American Ship Paintings

    This exhibition of 5 paintings from the Folk Art collection highlights the popularity of ship portraits. In the mid-19th century, ship captains and owners commissioned artists to depict their sea-going vessels in all their glory. Included in the exhibit are 3 large paintings by James Bard, one of which depicts the schooner yacht America, the first winner of the trophy now known as the America's cup. Steamboats plied the rivers of 19th-century America and are represented in the exhibit in two paintings, one of which is over 6 feet long, giving an impressive, detailed view of the side-wheeler. Each portrait depicts a specific ship with a story to tell.

    Opening May 23, 2015

  • Thunderbirds: Jewelry of the Santo Domingo Pueblo

    Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico has the longest jewelry-making tradition of any of the Southwest pueblos.  It stretches back centuries. During the 20th century, however, they created a fascinating type of jewelry that until now has received little attention. Sometimes called Depression jewelry, or, as the makers themselves referred to it, thunderbird jewelry, it is a true expression of folk art. Economic conditions and rise of tourism in the 1930s led to the modification and creation of jewelry made from non-traditional materials like car batteries and the use of the thunderbird motif. On display will be over 100 examples of the necklaces and earrings that were produced in the first half of the 20th century. The exhibit will also explore the technique used to make the jewelry and the families who created the pieces. This loan exhibition is organized by guest curators Roddy and Sally Moore of the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia.

    Through Monday, September 5, 2016, in the David and Mary Peebles Gallery

  • Dollhouse

    The World Made Small

    Dollhouses are some of the most popular miniature versions of the real world. On view in the Wilkinson Gallery is a museum favorite — the enormous Long island Dollhouse made around 1900 and fully furnished. The earliest dollhouse in the exhibit was made in 1820 for twin girls. Other houses include a house made in the Chesapeake around 1835 and a colonial revival house made around 1940. While young girls played house, what about the young boys? Wonderful German-made playsets from the 19th century will be featured including a fort, a soldiers' campsite and a farm.

    Through January 3, 2017 in the Rachel Elisabeth and Joshua Ryan Wilkinson Gallery

  • A Celebration of Quilts

    Take in this new exhibition that features twelve quilts that represent the diversity of quilts made in American from the 18th through 20th centuries. Several of the quilts are new to the collection and have never before been seen by the public. Exhibited quilts include a variety of techniques, from whole cloth to appliqué and piecing. They represent makers from many regions and ethnic groups, including Anglo-Americans, African-Americans, Hawaiians, and Amish.

    Through December 6, 2015 in the Foster and Muriel McCarl Gallery

  • Paper Trail: Documenting Rites of Passage in German-speaking America

    Paper Trail: Documenting Rites of Passage
    in German-speaking America

    The exhibition of highly decorative certificates documenting births, baptisms and marriages in the Mary B. and William Lehman Guyton Gallery, highlights the traditions of German-speaking people in America. Called fraktur, these hand-drawn and colored documents are visually appealing records of 19th-century individuals.

    This exhibition was made possible by Martha R. Rittenhouse in memory of her parents, David and Evelyn Rittenhouse, and her brother, Ward Rittenhouse.

    Through October 4, 2015

  • American Folk Portraits

    American Folk Portraits

    This exhibition of folk art portraits in the Gladys & Franklin Clark Foundation Gallery highlights the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum's superb collection of primarily 19th-century images of children, adults and families. The exhibition focuses on the period 1700-1850. Old favorites — such as Baby in Red Chair, one of the earliest pictures to enter the collection; and a group portrait of the Smith family of Richmond, Virginia, the most recent addition to the collection — join more than 40 other portraits to offer a rich and diverse look at a period before photography changed the way people saw each other and themselves.

    Through November 29, 2015

  • Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art

    Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art

    This exhibit in the Leslie Anne Miller and Richard B. Worley Gallery examines signboards, storefront figures, weather vanes, marine carvings, whirligigs, carousel animals, and other pieces originally intended for use outdoors. These 19th- and 20th-century works survived the elements and bear witness to the creative spirit that once enlivened the American landscape.

    This exhibition was made possible by a gift from Barry M. Boone in loving memory of his wife, Linda.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Weathervane

    Introduction to American Folk Art

    This exhibit in the Jan Curtis and Frank J. Spayth Gallery introduces visitors to the museum and to the collector Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. At the beginning of the 20th century, Mrs. Rockefeller admired the artful expressions of nonacademic artists from the past and present. She set out to acquire pieces that reflected the best of the American people. When she died in 1948, she left her extensive collection of folk art to Colonial Williamsburg. John D. Rockefeller Jr., in honor of his wife, built the museum in 1957 to display her collection.

    Through November 29, 2015

  • Down on the Farm

    Down on the Farm

    This popular exhibition in the Penelope P. and Dr. Sergio V. Proserpi Gallery follows the story of Prince, a carved wooden dog, as he explores the countryside and meets up with animals in paintings, sculptures, and toys. Read rhyming text that tells of his adventures as he encounters weather vane roosters, carved ducks, and wooden horses.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Conserving the Carolina Room

    Conserving the Carolina Room

    This exhibition in the Rex and Pat Lucke Gallery highlights the current research on and conservation of an 1836 painted room acquired by the museum in the 1950s. Each board, wainscot and door has been investigated and treated to bring it closer to the original appearance.

    The conservation of the Carolina Room was made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Rex A. Lucke of Elkhorn, Nebraska, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional conservation support is provided by the Mildred and J.B. Hickman Conservation Endowment and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowed Conservation Fund.

    Ongoing exhibition

  • Cross Rhythms: Folk Musical Instruments

    Cross Rhythms: Folk Musical Instruments

    This exhibition in the Elizabeth M. and Joseph M. Handley Gallery features banjos, fiddles, and dulcimers from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Highlights include a piano built into a chest of drawers and a record-playing hippocerous.

    Ongoing exhibition