photo: Freeman's Auctioneers
November 17, 2010
To the Board of the Burlington County Historical Society:
It has come to my attention that the Burlington County Historical Society has deaccessioned and is selling their collection of New Jersey samplers. As a former museum curator at Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, TN, I am writing to urge you to withdraw the sampler collection from the sale. Before I moved to Tennessee in 1989, I lived in Berkeley Heights, NJ, for 15 years. It was there that I developed my love for American samplers when I attended sampler exhibits at the Museum of American Folk Art and the Cooper-Hewitt. I also visited the Burlington County Historical Society several times and was extremely impressed at the quantity and the superb quality of your sampler collection.
I am now involved in a project to locate and document samplers made in Tennessee before 1900. It was previously thought that there were few samplers made in the South. After living here a few years, I discovered that was not the truth, and have been endeavoring to disclaim it ever since. Samplers were an important part of female education in the 18th and 19th century in the South as well as the North. Researching and studying them can reveal a lot about the past, not only about female education, but about culture, economics, politics, and women's place in society. Your mission statement says that you believe in research and teaching New Jersey history. If that is true, how can you even think about deaccessioning primary artifacts? As an avid researcher, I can tell you that there is no substitute for examining primary artifacts!
You claim you want to use the money for turning the museum into a more interactive museum for students. The American Association of Museums Code of Ethics states: "Proceeds from the sale of nonliving collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the museum's discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections." Your stated goal for the funds raised by this sale is in direct violation of this. I suggest you contact the AAM or your accountant before you proceed with this sale.Janet S. Hasson
Tennessee Sampler Survey