| 322 S. Juliana St
Bedford, PA 15522
PRESS RELEASE - MARCH 12, 2006
NATIONAL COVERLET MUSEUM IS ESTABLISHED
BEDFORD, PENNSYLVANIA. “It’s a dream come true,” said Melinda Zongor today, in discussing the establishment of The National Museum of the American Coverlet. “This is a banner day for coverlets and the people who love them. It is a concept whose time has come,” she said.
Laszlo and Melinda Zongor, longtime specialists in coverlets, have established the first year-round, independent museum devoted solely to woven coverlets. Several collections already pledged to the Museum include geometric and figured coverlets from around the country.
“Coverlets are treated like orphans by many general interest museums because there is too often a lack of respect and/or resources for their proper display and storage. Our mission is to provide a caring, living, safe home for coverlets with a variety of displays and programs for exhibition, education, conservation and storage,” said Zongor.
Edward Maeder, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors, made the formal announcement at the Hartford (CT) Spring Antiques Show, on March 12. Maeder is the Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Textiles at Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, Massachusetts. His enthusiasm was evident. “I told Melinda and Laszlo that I wouldn’t take on something like this for anyone else in the world,” he said, “but they ‘get it.’” Their passion, knowledge and experience make them perfect for this project.”
In making the announcement, Maeder was joined by Sumpter Priddy III, Vice President of the Museum Board. Priddy’s award-winning book, American Fancy, was inspired by a coverlet.
Zongor indicated that the Museum is gaining support from collectors and museum professionals alike. “Since initial talks with our major donor in October of 2005, we have been able to move very quickly because so many people agree with our concept and recognize the need for this institution,” she said.
Coverlets are woven bedcovers. Unlike quilts, most of which were made by cutting and sewing pattern pieces to a ready-made backing, coverlets were woven on looms. The weaver constructed the textile itself, one row at a time, creating the pattern at the same time. In many cases, antique coverlets predate quilts. Coverlets were woven in many states and made in several different weave structures, all of which will be represented at the Museum.
Location and building. The Museum will be in Bedford, Pennsylvania, which is centrally located in terms of the areas where coverlets were produced. Bedford is easily reached from the PA Turnpike, Interstates 68 and 70, and National Route 30. It is only a few hours from Philadelphia, Lancaster, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Pittsburgh; and much of the Midwest is within a comfortable day’s ride.
Established in 1758, the town of Bedford boasts a number of early buildings, a restored village known as Old Bedford Village, a replica of the 18 th-century Fort Bedford, and the historic Bedford Springs Hotel.
The Bedford Springs Hotel, established in 1804, served as the summer white house for several U.S. Presidents and was the site of several important historic events. Long defunct, it is currently being revived and restored, with the help of an $88.5 million investment by a Texas developer. With a planned opening scheduled for May of 2007, it will operate as a high-end spa resort and tourist attraction, with over 200 guest rooms, two golf courses, and a number of other high quality features.
Bedford, already a well-known tourist destination, has been receiving nationwide attention because of this new development, along with planned major upgrades to the other historical institutions. The entire area anticipates a major influx of visitors as a result. The Bedford Chamber of Commerce and Historical Commission have expressed their enthusiastic support for the Museum project. “We feel the timing is perfect and it will be a wonderful addition to our list of attractions,” said David Thompson, Director of Business Development for Bedford.
The National Museum of the American Coverlet is to be housed in the former Bedford Common School, in the center of town and only 1-1/2 miles from the Bedford Springs Hotel. Built in 1859, the School is part of Bedford’s Historic District and is of the period of the coverlets.
Melinda Zongor described the facility: “It is a two-story brick building on a stone foundation. It is 30,000 square feet in size, retains its school room layout, and has a floor plan that will enable us to pursue all the ideas we have in mind. There will be a welcome center, a Museum shop, display spaces for exhibits of coverlets, weaving equipment and their history, as well as conservation, storage, photography and exhibit preparation. There is even an open auditorium/meeting space which can accommodate visiting exhibits and other activities, and the adjacent commercial kitchen can support a food service. A reference library will be open to Museum members. We will offer an array of seminars, workshops, children’s programs and special events, all designed to celebrate our woven heritage. The building is a beauty. It sits on 2 acres, the largest lot in town, just a short walk from the historic town square.”
She continued, “The building’s support systems are new, modern, and virtually ready to go. It will need comparatively little preparation beyond cosmetic improvements.”
The building is being purchased for $400,000 and will be self-sustaining. The building is currently fully rented to small businesses. Plans call for using the first floor and the one-story attached annex building for the Museum space. The upper floor will remain rented out, and the rental income will defray the cost of running the building. “We can expand into the second floor spaces as we need to, without the cost and disruption of new construction,” Zongor said.
When asked if the Museum’s location had anything to do with the fact that the Zongors live nearby, Melinda explained, “Amazingly, it is a pure coincidence. We have looked for years, in a number of different states, for a suitable building. None was really workable. One day during a conversation with a local friend who is a real estate agent, she asked, ‘How about the Common School?’ We didn’t know it was available. The timing was perfect. We had just received the pledge from our major donor. When we brought in our advisors and they fell in love with it, just as we had, we knew it was right. The seller had turned down several prospective buyers because she cares about what happens to the building and she didn’t like their plans. She is very excited about the Museum and has offered to work as a volunteer. Everyone involved says it was meant to be.”
Board of Directors. The Zongors have gathered some well-known and respected names for the Museum’s Board of Directors:
----- Eva Burnham ( Montreal , Canada ) – Costume and textile conservator/restorer. Ms. Burnham has 35 years of experience with textiles of all types and origins. She trained at the renowned Abegg Foundation in Riggisberg, Switzerland (near Bern), a world center for textile conservation, and was responsible for the creation of the textile conservation laboratory at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa. Her associations have included Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and Montreal’s McCord Museum of Canadian History. If the Burnham name sounds familiar, it is because the love of textiles runs in her family. She is the daughter-in-law of textile historian (the late) Dorothy Burnham, author of KEEP ME WARM ONE NIGHT: EarlyHandweaving in Eastern Canada, the groundbreaking Canadian work that recognized coverlets as far more than domestic craft.
----- Stephen A. George, FAIA ( Pennsylvania ) – Retired architect from Pittsburgh, now in Bedford. Mr. George has served on some 35 Boards of major agencies and institutions in Pittsburgh and Bedford, Pennsylvania. In Bedford, he is on the Board of the Airport Authority, the Historic Architectural Review Board, the Redevelopment Authority and the Juniata Woolen Mill. He is also Vice President of the Historical Society. Mr. George is experienced with financial support mechanisms and “funding streams.”
----- Jes Horwath ( Illinois ) – Board member of the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America. Mr. Horwath is a retired media specialist and instructor of modern German at Purdue University ( Illinois). He is an active volunteer with a 10-year interest in coverlets. His degree in Library Science and his experience in archival recordkeeping will be invaluable in establishing the Museum research library. Mr. Horwath has pledged his coverlets to the Museum.
----- Edward Maeder ( Massachusetts ) – Director of Exhibitions and Curator of Textiles for Historic Deerfield. Mr. Maeder has organized over 50 exhibitions and written for numerous publications. He has held curatorial positions at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and he was Founding Director of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Mr. Maeder has served as consultant to many renowned institutions in the U.S. and abroad; and he has taught at the University of Minnesota, the University of Southern California, Abegg Stiftung ( Bern, Switzerland), and the Costume College in Van Nuys, California. He has lectured on costumes, textiles, conservation and collections in 26 states and 18 foreign countries. Mr. Maeder is an expert in the complete timeline of textile history, and how coverlets fit into the picture.
----- Frank J. Miele ( New York , NY ) – Owner of the Frank J. Miele Gallery on Madison Avenue, New York, focusing on contemporary American folk art. An art collector of some note and a senior partner at a prominent New Jersey law firm, Mr. Miele retired from the full-time practice of law to follow his passion. He has lectured at museums around the country, including the Museum of American Folk Art (NY), the DeYoung Museum ( San Francisco), and the Amon Carter Museum ( Fort Worth, TX). He has written articles for several art magazines, including “The Magazine Antiques,” “Folk Art,” “Elle Décor,” and “Art & Antiques,” among others. Mr. Miele was a founder of Hirschl & Adler Folk, a Madison Avenue (NY) gallery devoted to 19 th and 18 th century American folk art. He has been interested in coverlets for many years. In 1988, as Director of Hirschl & Adler Folk, he presented Warm & Wonderful: The Jacquard Coverlet, the first major commercial gallery exhibit of coverlets, taking them from the bed to the wall and treating them as art. (Guest curator and author of the exhibit catalog was Melinda Ventre, now Melinda Zongor.)
----- Sumpter Priddy III ( Virginia ) – Historian, author, and expert in the research of material culture. Mr. Priddy is specifically interested in the relationship between architecture, history and the decorative arts. He is actively engaged in researching America’s early artisans and has assembled one of the most extensive photographic libraries of regional decorative arts in private hands. His prior associations include Historic Deerfield as tutor in the Summer Fellowship Program, and The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation as Teaching Curator. His numerous publications include his latest book, American Fancy, which was accompanied by a major traveling exhibit, receiving rave reviews. The book has just received the Historic New England 2004 Book Prize for its “significant contribution to the study of American and New England Culture.” The inspiration for this landmark 15-year project was a coverlet inscribed “.... FANCY WEAVER.”
----- Douglas Schmidt ( Maryland) – President, Cumberland Cultural Foundation, overseeing the C. William Gilchrist Gallery in Cumberland, Maryland (site of the Zongors’ coverlet exhibition in June, 2005). Mr. Schmidt is a past Board member of the Hanover Area Historical Society in York County, Pennsylvania, where he managed its annual antique show, the Society’s primary fundraiser. He served as a Cumberland representative on the Board of Directors of the Bedford Springs [PA] Festival of Arts. He has had a 50-year interest in architecture, historic preservation, and the American decorative arts, having championed the preservation of architecturally significant historic buildings, and is a self-described 40-year-or-more “auction hound.” He is the former owner of the John Abbot house (John Abbot was founder of Abbottstown, PA), a restored residence now functioning as an antique shop.
----- Jude Fera ( Connecticut ), ex-officio member of the Museum Board, will lead the Collectors’ Council, an adjunct group of coverlet collectors who will organize their own special events and programs as well as fundraising efforts, to supplement Museum activities. The Collectors’ Council activities will be open to all Museum members who have at least one coverlet. Ms. Fera has been interested in coverlets for 25 years. Her still-growing collection numbers over 185 and includes examples of all weave structures. Ms. Fera has pledged her collection to the Museum.
Two honorary Board members include the major donor, who prefers to remain anonymous, and Martha Jack.
----- Martha Jack (NY State) is a true pioneer in coverlet stewardship. The National Museum of the American Coverlet honors her many years of devoted service to the “cause” of coverlets.
“The most important asset of these illustrious Board members is that they are experts with a common sense, practical attitude, who recognize, respect and credit the work of others and who know that big things can be accomplished without spending huge dollars. They enthusiastically share the vision and agree on how best to achieve it,” said Zongor.
Melinda Zongor will serve as Director/Curator, and a full-time Conservator/Registrar will be added as soon as possible.
Melinda has a 35-year interest in antiques, including 20 years in the antiques trade, specializing in coverlets. She has been a weaver, both independently and for a custom, high-end weaving house. In 1988 she curated and wrote the catalog for the Hirschl & Adler Folk (NYC, New York) exhibit “Warm and Wonderful: The Jacquard Coverlet.” She is also author of Coverlets and the Spirit of America: The Shein Collection and Coverlets at the Gilchrist:American Coverlets 1771-1889. Her contributions to the newsletter for the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America, include her article entitled “A National Coverlet Museum: We Need One,” written in October of 2003. She currently serves as Director of Education on the Board of Directors of the Antiques Council, in charge of their annual publication of educational articles written by Council members (www.antiquescouncil.com/focus).
Her previous experience includes audience development for the then-fledgling Hartman Regional Theatre Company in Stamford, Connecticut. Other associations include NBC (National Broadcasting Company) and the Theatre in America department of WNET (the public television station), both located in Manhattan.
The Zongors are members of the Antiques Council, the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association (NHADA), the Antiques Dealers Association (ADA) and the Colonial Coverlet Guild of America.
Melinda and Laszlo Zongor have presented coverlet exhibits, lectures, technical consults and general advice for collectors, the antiques trade, the feature film industry, print media, and a variety of groups, large and small. They have helped build several major coverlet collections and have dedicated their lives together to educating about, and raising awareness and appreciation of, coverlets.
They have made a fulltime commitment to the Museum. Their remaining antiques show schedule for 2006 will include the NHADA Show in New Hampshire (August), and the ADA/Historic Deerfield Show in Massachusetts (October).
Coverlets to be Donated. Over 500 coverlets have been pledged to the Museum so far. The collection of the major donor includes a number of rare examples and a few that are one-of-a-kind.
The Zongor collection, also donated, was featured in Coverlets at the Gilchrist: American Coverlets 1771–1889, an exhibit catalog published in 2005 and available from them.
Several other collections are pledged for eventual donation to the Museum, and those coverlets will be available for exhibition and/or study in the meantime.
The Museum plans eventually to house several thousand coverlets of all weave structures, from all the coverlet producing states.
Other Important Donations. Antique weaving equipment and important research archives are also planned for the Museum, and the list is growing.
“We hope to establish an open and sharing relationship with the nation’s general interest museums, historical societies and other institutions that presently house coverlets,” Melinda said. “We already have offers of this type and expect to develop more.”
Funding. A generous pledge has come from a major collector. The Museum, with the help of friends and collectors, is working with other funding sources both public and private. Charter memberships are offered at $40 for individuals and $45 for families. The Museum personnel emphasize that membership support and donations are especially important now, in assisting with startup expenses. The Museum is incorporated as a non-profit institution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Spring opening date. A grand opening is tentatively planned for the spring of 2007. The Museum will be open year-round. For brochures and information, call (814) 356-3777 or email . The Museum website is www.coverletmuseum.org.