Derry arts and history group mounts music, textile exhibits

By Tuckerman Wunderle
© 2017 Chester Telegraph LLC

An 1820s barn loom on exhibit at the Custer Sharp House. Photos by Tuckerman Wunderle.

The Londonderry Arts and Historical Society is presenting two exhibits at the Custer Sharp House through the end of July.

Textiles and Fabrics and Music in the Mountains focus on the lives of earlier Londonderry residents, showing the ways they worked and played.

Textiles and Fabrics focuses on the crafts and housework that were done in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mimi Wright, who organized the exhibit, says it was a time when it “wasn’t enough to make all of your clothing,  then (you had) to make it beautiful.”

The pieces on display showcase this, highlighting everyday items with intricate lacework. Much of the work was done by Londonderry residents, including Bernadine Custer Sharp, a last owner of the Custer Sharp House.

A detail of one of the quilts in the exhibit.

Along with the handmade clothing and other household items, Textiles and Fabrics showcases the machines that were used to create these everyday works of art. The exhibit features a barn loom, reassembled after being dismantled for 20 years.

“You can feel how soft the wood is, from years of someone working it,” said Wright. The loom, which dates back to the 1820s, was too large to be used in the house, and could only be used in the summer when the temperature in the barn made it possible to work. Along with the works of fabric, the loom transports the viewer to a time when art and appliance combined in everyday life.

The exhibit Music in the Mountains showcases Londonderry’s live music venues throughout the 1900s, including the Union Hall, the Mill Tavern and Lowell Lake Hotel.  It shows what residents of the small town would do in their free time, uncovering a surprisingly lively night scene. Audiences and bands would come from as far as New York state to perform in the small town, often staying for whole weekends at one of the taverns.

The Vaile Orchestra.

The exhibit also features some instruments, donated by Londonderry resident, that would have played at these gatherings.  These include an Estey Organ Co. organ, made by the Brattleboro-based company that operated for more than a century and was one of the world’s largest organ manufacturers.

The spirit of these shows is also captured in lively paintings and drawings of the musicians done by Bernadine Custer, as well as photos of the bands that played in the area.

“I would say this is just a quick touch, because we are still collecting a lot of information on Music in the Mountains,” said Annie Campbell, who put together the exhibit. Many of those featured in the photos are  unidentified Londonderry residents. The Historical Society hopes that visitors to the exhibit will be able to put names to some of those faces

From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1, the Historical Society will hold a “Faces of Londonderry” picnic at the Custer Sharp House, showcasing many of these portraits.

The Historical Society urges people who think they, or their relatives, may have been photographed or painted by Custer to contact the organization, to help identify the people in these works of art.

Together, Textiles and Fabrics and Music in the Mountains give visitors a look into two of the ways Londonderry residents worked and played in the past. The exhibits will be on display from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays  and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays through the end of July at the Custer Sharp House, 2461 Middletown Road.

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