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Athenaeum regains historic treasures for exhibit

Lucy Douglas Fowler
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Throughout the year, the Westfield Athenaeum has been celebrating its 140-year history with various lectures and cultural events.

Beginning Nov. 1, the Jasper Rand Art Museum will host a month-long exhibit featuring only a few of the thousands of artifacts housed within the walls of the Athenaeum. The exhibit, titled "Treasures of the Westfield Athenaeum," will include 150-year-old portraits of two of the city's most prominent figures, Edward Bates Gillett and his wife Lucy Douglas Fowler.

The portraits were originally part of the historical museum's collection, according to Christopher Lindquist, director of the Westfield Athenaeum. The Athenaeum recently reacquired the portraits through a donation by David Ross, son of the late Allan Ross, a Westfield native and antique collector.

Robert Brown, chair of the Board of Trustees for the Athenaeum, also a local historian, explained that after examining the portraits he believes they were commissioned in honor of their nuptials.

Gillett served as president of the Athenaeum originally located at 26 Main St. from 1881-99. Brown explained that Gillett and Fowler donated their estate and land on Elm and Court in order to offer residents an expanded Athenaeum at 6 Elm St.

"They are just treasures," Lindquist said of the portraits, adding that he is grateful to have them back at the Athenaeum.

"I felt that the portraits represented history in Westfield and the Athenaeum is a repository for historical records of Westfield and those two figures were prominent in the establishment of the present location of the Athenaeum," Ross said of his need to donate the portraits.

Lindquist noted that many other artifacts including portraits, fine art, furniture and documents will be featured in the "Treasures of the Westfield Athenaeum" exhibit.

Brown said the exhibit will include artifacts from the city's whip and cigar industries as well. He explained that for the past six years, he and a group of volunteers have worked to examine and catalog the thousands of artifacts and paper documents stored within the Athenaeum, some of which will be included in next month's exhibit.

"Treasures of the Westfield Athenaeum" can be viewed during regular library hours, Monday through Thursday from 8: 30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., beginning Nov. 1.