Where can you learn about the Roman Empire, marvel over a collection of brilliantly colored butterflies from Peru and get an up-close look at tools used by Native Americans? Open the glass doors to The Stirrup Gallery in Myles Center for the Arts where a world of days gone by awaits.
Originally established in 2013 as a home to the 10,000-plus North American treasures of The Darby Collection, The Stirrup Gallery has continued to grow to include nine additional collections – the Lincoln Collection, Howard-Sudbrink Collection, Eleanor Gay Collection, Foster Collection, Senator Davis Collection, Swezy Collection, Gary North Collection, J. Richard & Dotty S. Kendig Collection and Reckling Collection.
The Darby Collection
It begins with the Stone Age and the hand ax, and ends with the delicate, beautifully crafted glass, wooden and metal objects of the early 20th century. This is the legacy of prodigious collector Hosea M. Darby, a native son of Preston County, West Virginia, and successful Elkins architect and builder, who gave his home and collection of more than 10,000 items to Davis & Elkins College in 1943. The Darby Collection is the showpiece of The Stirrup Gallery.
The collection of firearms has been inspected by representative from both the Smithsonian Institution and Colonial Williamsburg. It includes 100 guns (both rifles and pistols) from the period of 1600 to the Civil War era. To complement this collection are other weaponry, swords, bayonets, and a wide variety of combat knives.
Pottery & Baskets
The Native American artifacts were obtained in the early 1900s, so nearly all of the items are original rather than made-for-sale items or reproductions. There are approximately 800 items of original Indian pottery, dating from 100 B.C. to 1900 with most being from the pre-European contact period. There are also many original baskets, peace pipes, and other Native American items.
The Collection provides a view into the lives of early European settlers. There are spinning wheels, looms and furniture, including a circa 1795 rope bed, sausage grinders,1860 mechanical sewing machine, food choppers, sausage stuffers and irons.
There are hundreds of glass items in the Collection: dishes, plates, crystal, butter pats, carnival glass, bottles, and vases. Each was selected to meet Darby’s standard: “only genuine, finest, unusual and complete items of North America with neat notations where obtained at fair prices.”
Artifacts from the Mississippian period date between 1000 to 1500 AD, a time when Native American peoples were developing large permanent villages and towns. The Darby artifacts include effigy pots and clay pots featuring distinctive decorative techniques, as well as objects pertaining to religious rituals and cults. After 1500, trade objects, such as glass beads, iron axes, copper and brass bells, white glazed pipes and tomahawks reflect the influx of Europeans to the continent.
According to Smithsonian Institution and Colonial Williamsburg curators, The Stirrup Gallery contains one of the top five collections of powder horns in the United States. The Powder Horn room displays only a fraction of the Collection’s nearly 300 powder horns, many of which are engraved with great detail.
Metal items include pewter plates and dishes, silver items, knives, forks, iron tableware, brass pots and copper teapots. Prized in the home, metalware greatly improved early Americans’ lives.
Senator Davis Collection
The Davis Collection includes Senator Davis's 18 karat gold Tiffany and Co. pocket watch from the mid-1800s and a unique Sicilian wedding cart which is completely covered with paintings.
Arthur Foster was a physician and medical missionary in Cyprus in 1893 where he obtained this collection of 1500 B.C. pottery which includes oil lamps, pots, jars, plates and bowls. It was donated to D&E in 1968.
Eleanor Gay Collection
An extensive collection of Wedgwood pottery consisting of plates, cups, Christmas ornaments and more. Ms. Gay, an alumna of D&E, donated the collection in 2013. The Gay Collection is currently housed in Halliehurst.
Providing a glimpse into the society of the Roman Empire between 98 and 117 CE, a set of Trajan coins was donated by Board of Trustee member and alumnus Bill Sudbrink, ’59, in 2014. The gold, silver, bronze and copper pieces circulated as currency for many years during and after Trajan’s reign and depict major accomplishments, including architectural achievements, war campaigns and gladiator games. The Collection also includes a list retrieved from a restaurant wall in Pompeii, Italy, during an archaeological dig.
J. Richard & Dotty S. Kendig Collection
Richard and Dotty Kendig were missionaries in the headwaters of the Amazon River for 11 years during the 1950s and 1960s. They lived with the Conibo tribe and collected various artifacts which they donated to The Stirrup Gallery in 2014. The collection includes mounted displays of large Amazonian insects and vivid butterflies, spoons made from fresh-water dolphin bones, miniature dugout canoe carvings and pottery.
The remarkable collection of Sadavioe Goddin, a renowned Lincoln scholar and D&E alumna, was donated to the College by her sister in 1996. It contains hand-drawn portraits of Lincoln by the famous artist E.A. Burbank, a brick shard from the mantel of Lincoln's boyhood home and a piece of wood flooring from his home in Illinois. The Lincolin Collection is currently housed in Graceland.
Gary North Collection
The family of the late D&E College Trustee Gary North, '62, donated his collection of Native American art that includes a full-length feathered headdress, pottery, basketry, sculptures and authentic centuries-old Iroquois Nation projectile points and other weaponry.
The Reckling Collection contains Miocene and Pleistocene epoch fossils dating back 2.6 million years. The fossils are those of megafauna that arose after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs and lived during the last ice age, including woolly mammoth, mastodon, platybelodon, gomphotherium, woolly rhinoceros, cave bear, extinct North American horse, camel, tapir and peccary. Visitors are able to touch and hold the fossils in this collection.
Donated in 2009, this collection includes an Egyptian bronze Osiris statuette circa 760 B.C., Mezzo American pottery whistles circa 1000 A.D. and pre-Columbian figurines.
The Stirrup Gallery is open in Myles Center for the Arts Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., and evenings and weekends by appointment.
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