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Object Collections



Henry Francis du Pont collected antiques to furnish his Estate with period settings. Like other great collectors active in the middle decades of the twentieth century, he had an eye for quality, considerable financial resources, and talented advisors. His collections and interior designs were highly influential during his lifetime and remain so today.

Now numbering more than 85,000 objects, the object collections cover the 220 years between 1640 and 1860. Study collections, developed for teaching, include selected examples of the arts and crafts movement and twentieth-century design.

The enormous variety of objects within these collections makes the Winterthur Museum the perfect classroom for material culture and decorative arts scholars. One section of the collection includes exquisite masterwork objects in nearly every medium, including ceramics, metals, textiles, clothing, furniture, and architecture (in the form of building facades and other architectural elements). While Winterthur is well known for these masterworks, there are also many everyday objects that represent the lives of ordinary people from across the United States and abroad. These non-elite objects make up an equally large portion of the collection.

Additionally, while the majority of the collection’s wooden objects and a high proportion of the silver were made in America, most of the textiles, refined ceramics, and metals were imported from Europe and Asia. Objects also hail from all across North, Central, and South America.

The ways in which objects have been displayed in the museum, such as in the form of period rooms, are also a terrific resource for anyone interested in twentieth-century collecting practices, and twentieth-century conceptions of these objects and their significance.

All Fellows work in the Museum collections as part of their course work. With this unique chance to explore the collections without supervision and handle any and all objects, Fellows are encouraged to spend as much time in the collection as possible. Winterthur’s object collections are supplemented throughout the Program with field-based learning trips to collections that specialize in objects and histories that are not covered in the Winterthur Museum.

For more information on how the Program approaches and utilizes the Winterthur collection, as well as the different types of objects that Fellows analyze both in and out of the Winterthur collections, refer to our FAQ page.

For more information about the collections, please look at the Museum’s collection web site.


Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 1.22.22 PMPolk, Prentice Herman, MARGARET BLANCHE POLK, 1946/1980 reprint, Paul R. Jones Collection of African American Art, Mechanical Hall Gallery, University of Delaware 

The University of Delaware has three Museums: Mechanical Hall Gallery, Old College Gallery, and the Mineralogical Museum at Penny Hall. While Mechanical Hall houses ever-changing exhibitions of African American Art and related topics, the Mineralogical Museum is home to the Irénée du Pont mineral collection, and Old College Gallery features Brandywine School artists, Pre-Columbian and Southwest Native American ceramics, 20th century American sculpture and painting, as well as a select number of late 18th and 19th century Russian icons. Together, these spaces enhance the educational and scholarly mission of the University of Delaware through the exhibition, online presentation, study, preservation and growth of its unique collections.

Additionally, The University of Delaware’s Fashion and Apparel Studies superintends a collection of historic textiles and clothing, maintaining over 3000 items worn by men, women and children.

Many Fellows utilize these sites and collections to great effect, especially as they enjoy similarly open access to the university’s collections as they do for Winterthur’s collections. Members of the class of 2015 and 2016, for example, took a tremendous class with Mechanical Hall curator Dr. Julie McGee on the history of African American Museums. Themes in the class covered the representation of African Americans in the museum, and Fellows were able to examine these issues in real time by visiting the collections of 20th and 21st century African American artwork at Mechanical Hall.