In The News

Hidden in Plain Sight: Material Life of Early Springfield

This article orginally appeared in the Illinois Times

There are remnants of the past all around us– on the street, in museums, in our houses.  We walk by them without giving them a second thought.  But these remnants are time travelers from a world long since disappeared; silent witnesses to a bygone era.  They sit hidden in plain sight, ready to reveal their secrets to anyone with the patience and curiosity to stop and look.

These secrets will be revealed at “Hidden in Plain Sight:  The Material Life of Early Springfield.”  This exhibition will explore the architecture, archaeology, fine arts, and decorative arts of Springfield from the 1820s-1850s.   It opens on Aug. 31 at 5:30 pm and runs until Oct. 5, 2013.  The public is invited to come to the opening of this exhibit on Aug. 31 at 5:30 p.m. or visit the gallery during normal business hours.

Highlights of the exhibition will include photos of antebellum Springfield houses, a self-portrait by local artist Edward Richardson, jr. on loan from the Illinois State Museum; an 1830s ewer recovered from the Edwards Place privy; Springfield daguerreotypes; an 1830s door from the cellar of Edwards Place, an 1831 sideboard owned by the Enos family and signed by the cabinetmaker, and the 1830s sofa and piano which witnessed the Lincolns’ wedding ceremony.  Examination of these objects will shed light on who was living in early Springfield, what was important to them, how they lived, and what they thought of themselves and their lives here.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the SAA will host a four-part lecture series examining each category of material life in depth.  On September 5 author and Illinois State Archaeological Survey Outreach Coordinator Robert Mazrim will present “The Arcaheology of Early 19th Century Illinois.”   Erika Holst, SAA Curator of Collections, will discuss “Art in Antebellum Springfield” on Sept. 12. On September 19 Andrew Richmond, the Vice-President of Garth’s Auctions in Ohio, will explore regionalism in Midwestern decorative arts with his lecture “By River or Buy Local: Furnishing Springfield and the Midwest.”  The series will conclude on Oct. 26 when Christopher Schnell, Ph.D. candidate in history at Saint Louis University, will deliver a talk on “The Built Environment of Early Springfield.”  All lectures are free and open to the public at the Springfield Art Association.

Hidden in Plain Sight
Lecture Series
Thursdays at 7 pm

September 5
“The Archaeology of Early 19th Century Illinois”
Robert Mazrim, Illinois State Archaeological Survey

September 12
“Antebellum Springfield Art”
Erika Holst, Springfield Art Association

September 19
“Buy Local or by River: Furnishing Springfield and the Midwest”
 Andrew Richmond, Garth’s Auctions

September 26
“The Built Environment of Early Springfield”
Christopher Schnell, Saint Louis University

These events are supported by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council.  The Illinois Humanities Council is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Illinois General Assembly [through the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency], as well as by contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations.  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by speakers, program participants, or audiences do not necessarily reflect those of the NEH, the IHC, our partnering organizations or our funders.  

The Springfield Art Association’s Gallery of Art is open Monday through Friday 10 am to 5 pm and Saturday 10 am to 3 pm.  Admission is free.  For additional information contact Erika Holst, Curator of Collections, at 217-523-2631 or by email: