The Newport Restoration Foundation’s Whitehorne House Museum has been a fixture of Lower Thames Street for almost 45 years, and it’s time for some change! NRF is inviting the public to join them in Rethinking Whitehorne through two free community open house events on September 18 and 30.
While Whitehorne House Museum has been closed in the last year, NRF staff and peers from other Newport organizations have been working on more compelling ways to present the collection and how better to tell the story of Newport’s famed eighteenth-century furniture making and other craft traditions. Before any final decisions are made about changes and reinterpretation, the organization would also like to hear what the community thinks.
The collection at Whitehorne House Museum was personally assembled by heiress and preservationist Doris Duke to demonstrate the full range of Colonial craftsmanship in Newport, and work on the museum coincided with her most active period of restoring 18th– and early 19th-century houses for NRF. The collection includes significant pieces of furniture made by cabinetmakers from the famed Townsend and Goddard families, and many other Newport and Rhode Island workshops active at the same time.
The museum has remained largely unchanged since Doris Duke arranged the collection in room settings and opened the museum in 1974, and NRF is now considering other ways to present the collection to meet the needs and interests of audiences today. At the Rethinking Whitehorne open houses, several activities will guide visitors in helping NRF staff to identify what those needs and interests are. Should stories of the Townsend and Goddard families take center stage? Should more focus be put on global connections of Colonial Newport? Or on design, materials, and use of individual pieces? Do visitors want to know how to cut a dovetailed joint? Or see Target’s new line of “Newport” furniture?
“We have a collection in Whitehorne House that has long been renowned among specialists in 18th-century American Decorative Arts and with collectors and furniture makers,” said Margot Nishimura, NRF’s Director of Museums. “Now we’d like to see it become just as appealing and inviting to wider audiences, and for the stories told through a new presentation of the collection to inspire greater interest more generally in Newport’s Colonial heritage.”
Newport Restoration Foundation invites the public to have a look and provide feedback on what they would like to see in a rethought Whitehorne House Museum. The event is free and visitors are welcome to come for as little or as much time during the open hours. While registration is recommended (at www.NewportRestoration.org), it is not required.
Samuel Whitehorne House Museum
416 Thames Street
Newport, RI 02840
Located on the east side (away from the water) of Thames Street, four blocks south from the intersection with America’s Cup Avenue. This one-way street offers limited parking, but can also be reached by foot or trolley.