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Insights and Artifacts
Spring 2002 Courier

New Museum Seeks Samples of Norfolk History

The Chrysler Museum of Art is actively seeking bits and pieces of old Norfolk to be displayed in the new Museum of Norfolk History.

The museum is expected to open within the next year in the historic Willoughby-Baylor House, according to Catherine Futter, former curator of decorative arts and historic houses for the Chrysler Museum. Artifacts will be exhibited on loan and will remain the property of the donor.

"We're looking for objects with Norfolk ties," Futter said. "They don't have to be made in Norfolk, but they should have been used in Norfolk or owned by somebody in Norfolk."

The museum is seeking a range of artifacts, including documents, paitings, photographs, furniture, silver, ceramics, and miltiary objects. The collection already has a good start. Ther is a Norfolk card table from around 1810, as well as silver, a small amount of furniture, some photographs and a silverplated horn used by the city's fire chief in the mid-19th century.

The collection includes a 17-1/2-inch-tall commemorative urn made by Norfolk silversmith John Potter in 1821. The urn was commissioned by the citizens of Norfolk to thank lawyer Cesar Augustus Rodney for his defense of James Barron, who was sentenced to five years in prison after he fled from a battle with the British frigate, the Leopard. Rodney was able to get the sentence dismissed.

The Museum of Norfolk History will be a single depository for historic objects, like the urn and the fire chief's horn, which are now at various sites around the city. That includes artifacts recovered during the excavation for MacArthur Center, historic items now on display at the Kirn Memorial Library, pieces of Norfolk history from the Norfolk Police Museum, and selected items in the collection of the Norfolk Historical Society.

"It will be one central place where people who live here as well as visitors can learn about the history of this important port city," Futter said.

At present, the Willoughby-Baylor House is open to the public only as part of an hour-long tour of the nearby Moses Myers House. Once the Norfolk History Museum is established it will be open for tours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

In addition to the artifacts, the museum also is accepting financial contributions toward the estimated $500,000 cost of upgrading the facility so that the artwork will be safe and in a controlled environment.

Futter said it is too early yet to determine the need for docents or other volunteers to assist with operating the facility.

For more information or to discuss the loan of an object, call (757) 333-6227.


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