And Now We Await Our Inspection . . .

Well, it looks as if we are pretty much finished with the Research Center!  We have some minor items, including cleaning (by the MMA staff), window washing, and the installation of the blinds, but we await our final inspection by the Town now.  So let us hope!  Then, will come moving in all the  collections – including the former circulating collection of books which went off for something of a cleaning and then await me to vacuum each and every book as I re-shelve them.  Takes me back a few years to when I cleaned the Special Collection books – with the help of some Mitchell House interns in summer – but this will be just vacuuming ̶   I don’t have to brush and sponge!  Yeah!

So stay tuned.  I know the Natural Science Department has some special collections open houses that will be free and no reservations necessary to members and non-members alike so take the opportunity to see the newly spruced up space this summer!


Answer To Do You Know Where This Is?


The image is a portion of the face of the Mitchell family’s tall case clock. Built by John Deverell in Boston in 1789, the clock was a wedding gift to William and Lydia Coleman Mitchell from William Mitchell’s father, Peleg Sr. William and Lydia were married on December 12, 1812 or as Quakers would write it the 12th day of the 12th month 1812. It is a heavy brass works clock that shows the phases of the moons (it rotates with the clock) and the date – useful for a family of astronomers! William and Lydia gave the clock to Phebe Mitchell Kendall, a younger sister of Maria, when she married Joshua Kendall. Phebe then left the clock to her son, William Mitchell Kendall. Willie, as he was called by the family, left it to the Mitchell House in his estate in the 1940s. It still works – I wind it twice per week!

Answer to What Is This?

What you are looking at is the inside of a kaleidoscope found in the Mitchell Hose collection. Kaleidoscopes were very popular nineteenth century toys – and not just for the amusement of children. They were also good Quaker toys – quiet but also plain and simple on the outside, hiding the beauty within. This has I would say at least a forty pieces of colored glass and some of them are filled with liquid!


Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Maria MitchellFeb. 5, 1882. We have had two heavy snow storms since Feb. came in. We have twice been unable to get out of the Observatory without help. The first time 6 men, two horses and a girl came to our rescue; today four men and two horses and a girl came.

Phebe’s picture, painted by Fanny came; it is far the most pleasing she has done.

In 1882, Maria Mitchell had been teaching at Vassar College for approximately seventeen years. At that point, the Vassar Observatory was fairly remotely located in relation to Main Building where all of the college’s activities took place. One can image how hard it was for Maria to get out of the Observatory, but also how hard it was for her “girls” to get to her.

This entry is one of those gems I come across. Actually, there are many gems. For many, many years before I was curator, there was a portrait stowed away and the inventory was listed as “Unknown Woman.” Finally one day, as I was again looking at it trying to figure out who she was, I realized it was Phebe Mitchell Kendall, one of Maria’s younger sisters! Now, I come across this in Maria’s journals and it really makes me wonder if this oil portrait was painted by Frances (Fanny) Mitchell Macy, the daughter of Anne Mitchell Macy and her husband Alfred Macy. Fanny was an accomplished artist, maybe taking after her accomplished artist aunt, Phebe. I don’t recall any artist’s signature on the painting, but this could be one in the same! I am very excited to investigate further!


Answer to Where Is This?

MM Dassel Portrait Oftentimes, the focus is rarely made on this part of an object. But, in close-up detail it is quiet beautiful with its curves and undulations. The patina of time, cracks, and crazing is warm, even where the gilt has worn. This is the frame to the Herminia B. Dassel portrait of Maria Mitchell painted about 1851. Unfortunately, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people would “touch-up” gilt frames with gold radiator paint – yes, really. And this suffers from that. A Mitchell descendant likely did this but they did not necessarily realize back then the issues with what they did so you cannot blame them. The portrait was given to the Mitchell House in the early 1990s, coming to us from the estate of Sally Mitchell Barney’s granddaughter, Virginia Barney. Sally was Maria’s oldest sister.