Decorative Arts

The first floor at the Hadwen House showcases the NHA’s decorative arts. The very finest objects in the collection are on display in period rooms showcasing furniture, china and ceramics, textiles, and silver.

Explore the story of furniture design and manufacturing, with style examples created on Nantucket and across the region, showing sources for Nantucket craftsmen’s ideas. Including a “chair library” with 12 – 14 examples in a double rank on one wall, a row of  gorgeous tall clocks from Simon Willard, Nantucket instrument-maker and inventor Walter Folger, Jr. and others; a pair of desks showing the range of production practiced on the island, including Heman Ellis’s delicate and restrained cylinder desk  paired with a very rough school desk from Tuckernuck Island School; several tours de force of marquetry; and a small, whimsical collection of children’s furniture, doll furniture and miniatures.

In ceramics NHA’s major China Trade pieces will pair with European examples, to show the back-and-forth that has dominated design in that field for four centuries; a range of English mocha-ware, sponge-ware and transfer-decorated Staffordshire pottery; a wall of sets of plates and cups, both Chinese and European; funky Nantucket souvenir pieces; some interesting shards found on the island; and a wonderful, international collection of pepper pots – a survey of ceramic styles in miniature.

In textiles, as in all the areas, the goal is to give a view into our collection. Our textile holdings are large but up to now have been a challenge to display without jeopardizing the objects. We are building flat, transparent display boxes for dresses and coats; glass-fronted cubes to show off a dozen folded quilts; a range of men’s tailored items including vests, coats and shirts; some lovely men’s dimity drawers; and an extraordinary tablecloth bearing inscribed and embroidered-over autographs of decades of house-guests at a ’Sconset home.

Silver will trace a lineage of silver dealers on the island through hallmarks on some forty spoons, a kind of family-tree of businesses beginning with William Hadwen; some early pieces of Benjamin Bunker, the chief early silversmith on the island; again, a selection of Nantucket souvenirs, and work by Reva and Mort Schlesinger silversmiths working here in the late-twentieth to early-twenty first century.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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