George Walter Vincent Smith Museum
This art museum holds the eclectic collections of George Walter Vincent Smith (1832-1923) and his wife, Belle Townsley Smith (1845-1928) in an Italian palazzo-style building established in 1896. The vast holdings include excellent examples of Japanese lacquer, arms and armor, ceramics and bronzes; one of the largest collections of Chinese cloisonné outside of Asia; Chinese jade and ceramics; and a superb collection of 19th-century Middle Eastern carpets. In addition, the collection contains significant American 19th-century paintings (especially landscape and genre), Italian 19th-century watercolors, a fine assembly of Greek and Roman antiquities, a rare plaster cast collection, objects created for 19th-century International Expositions and examples of lace and early textiles. This report from William Rice, Librarian, hand-written in 1883, shows that the Springfield Museums originated on November 27th, 1857, when the Springfield Institute and the Young Men’s Literary Association were joined to form the City Library Association. The earliest museum collections were housed in a room in City Hall. George Walter Vincent Smith and his wife Belle Townsley offer their collection to the Association, a munificent act which led to the construction of Springfield’s first museum and sparked an era of philanthropy. The Springfield Science Museum, founded in 1859 in City Hall, officially opened in 1899 in a classical revival building, expanded in 1932 with an Art Deco addition, and expanded again in 1970 with the Tolman addition that included a public observatory. Don’t forget to check out this place in Springfield too.
The Museum houses a comprehensive collection of European Art (French, Dutch, and Italian) and the Currier & Ives (active 1834-1907) Collection is the largest holdings of lithographs in the nation. Following Geisel’s death in 1991, his wife, Audrey, authorized the Museums to create the national memorial, and has been a major supporter throughout the project. Sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, who is also Geisel’s step-daughter, created the endearing bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and his most beloved characters. The museum opens after a six year process which included consolidation of history collections, planning future directions, and construction of a 42,000 square foot building. The Wood Museum is now known for its local history research facilities, its comprehensive program of changing exhibitions, its diverse educational offerings, and it’s wide ranging collections illuminating the history of the Connecticut River Valley. In addition to housing art collections, the museum stewards hundreds of photographs and documents that tell the story of Springfield’s first art museum and offer insights into the lives of its benefactors. Funded through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, digitizing and sharing these Archives began in 2020.
You can lose several hours pottering around the Quadrangle’s oldest museum. The 19th-century building is a palatial neo-renaissance design with cloisters next to the square. This attraction takes its name from the collection’s owner and Smith was a man with wide-ranging tastes; he assembled a vast number of stunning pieces from all sorts of locations and eras. This is what makes the museum so much fun – you’ll see Middle-Eastern carpets from the 1800s, ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and Japanese weaponry and armour. But best of all is the collection of cloisonné (Chinese painted metalwork), the largest outside China. If you are ever in need of a cabinet maker, click here.