THE INTER-MOUNTAIN - With about 250 pieces of Native American pottery to choose from Thursday, museum representatives from Huntington had a tough time choosing just a few to borrow from The Stirrup Gallery at Davis & Elkins College.
Ultimately about 60 pieces of original pottery, baskets and other items from native North American cultures will be loaned to the Huntington Museum of Art during 2018, said Mark Lanham, coordinator of special collections at D&E College.
Lanham and summer intern Carla Deem took time Thursday to meet with Chris Hatten, senior curator, and other representatives from the Huntington Museum of Art. Hatten said he works with other museums and traveling exhibits all the time, and he was excited to visit Elkins.
“Since we’re only doing a small selection, we want to go for something that would be very visual,” Hatten said as he and other members of his group walked through the displays, describing some items as “fascinating” and “fantastic.”
“This is a great opportunity for us to show this collection,” he said, noting it will give additional exposure to the Stirrup Gallery as well as hopefully become a popular attraction for the Huntington museum for a few months.
Lanham said he was more than happy to share some of the collection, explaining the college literally has thousands of items, and it’s not possible to display them all at one time.
“Every summer, I try to change up displays to keep it fresh and new,” he said, adding he hopes to see more and more tour groups and visitors come check out what The Stirrup Gallery has to offer.
Lanham’s enthusiasm and appreciation of history are clear to anyone who visits the gallery, which displays 14,000 years of history — everything from Roman coins and mastodon teeth to thousands of Native American artifacts.
The gallery is located in the college’s Myles Center for the Arts, and it features nine collections. The most extensive by far is The Darby Collection, Lanham said.
Hosea M. Darby was a successful Elkins architect and builder who collected more than 10,000 items for more than four decades, and donated them to D&E College before his death in 1942.
Lanham said the items were kept in storage until about five years ago, when he began combing through the collection and carefully documenting the wide range of unique items that Darby donated.
There are more than 6,000 arrowheads in the collection, and more than 100 firearms. The collection’s rifles and pistols are from the 1600s through the Civil War era, and one gun was used during Custer’s Last Stand in 1876.
Other unique items in the collection represent everyday items used by mankind from the Stone Age through the early 20th century, including a wide range of American, European, Inuit, and American Indian artifacts.
Originally established in 2013 as a home for The Darby Collection, The Stirrup Gallery has grown to include eight additional collections — the Lincoln Collection, the Eleanor Gay Collection, the Foster Collection, the Gary North Collection, the Swezy Collection, the Sen. Davis Collection, the Kendig Collection and the Howard-Sudbrink Collection.
Lanham said students and tour groups from other areas visit the gallery throughout the year, and he hopes more Randolph County residents, young and old, make time for a visit.
The Stirrup Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and by appointment on evenings and weekends. More information is available by calling 304-637-1980.