Welcome to Winterthur

About me:

Although I grew up in the Delaware-Pennsylvania area, this summer is the first time I ever visited Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library. For the next ten weeks, I will be tucked away at a desk on the sixth floor in a room full of quirky decorative curiosities, learning from Winterthur’s curatorial department. I am Winterthur’s first Woody intern from William and Mary, and am very lucky that the Woody Internship in Museum Studies makes it possible for me to experience behind the scenes museum work this summer.

Winterthur Office Space

The view from my desk features some mariachi ducks, a small portrait of H.F. du Pont, and this young lad.

During the academic year, my main subject is English – I am a rising junior in the William and Mary/University of St Andrews Joint Degree Programme, learning and researching literature in Virginia and Scotland. I am really excited to get an in-depth experience in collections and curatorial work, learn new skills, and to spend as much time wandering around the Winterthur estate as possible.

What is Winterthur?

So, what is this place? Nestled away in Wilmington, Delaware, Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library is 999 acres, with 60 acres of naturalist garden. It began as the country estate of Henry Francis duPont, a keen horticulturalist who eventually began using his family’s wealth to collect decorative and fine art made or used in America. He created vignettes of historical objects celebrating patriotic figures including Franklin, Washington, and Revere, imported American architecture that ranged from rooms to ceilings, and aspired to eventually transform his estate into a museum.

Winterthur Staircase

This staircase came from a house in North Carolina

His collection spans two centuries of American decorative arts, from 1640 to 1860.

The estate became a museum in 1951, and H.F. duPont continued acquiring and donating objects, in addition to serving as the estate’s head gardener, until his death in 1969.

Portrait of H.F. duPont

Portrait of H.F. duPont, featuring a sparkly purple bow, also in the office space.

Today, Winterthur continues to add to its collection (one of the curatorial department’s many responsibilities), and its library serves as a hub for academic study of American art and culture. Two on-site programs are run in conjunction with the University of Delaware – the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture and the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, which have educated over 650 curators, conservators, and directors involved in many important US cultural institutions.

Winterthur is an active place of learning, conservation, and collaboration. Everyone here is very invested in their work, incredibly kind, and happy to share what they are passionate about. I feel like I am in wonderful hands.

So, if you are interested in learning more about museum and curatorial work from a complete novice’s perspective, stay tuned this summer!