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Collections

Furnishings

The Museum’s furniture collections range in date from the 17th to 20th centuries. The 1677 Whipple House features early furniture crafted in Ipswich and nearby towns arranged to show scenes from daily life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Highlights include two Dennis chests, Gaines chairs, and period blanket chests. 

Fine Arts

The Museum owns the largest single collection of works by Arthur Wesley Dow, including oils, watercolors, woodblock prints, cyanotype and black-and-white photographs, and plaster molds. The Museum also exhibits a collection of works by a group of artists known as the Ipswich Painters, who gathered around Dow in Ipswich during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other highlights of the collection include two portraits attributed to Lamqua, a Chinese artist who was a student of George Chinnery, portraits of members of the Heard family including two by William Morris Hunt, and a marble bust of Augustine Heard. Early paintings and prints are on display at the 1677 Whipple House.

Decorative Arts

Special items include Chinese porcelain and other objects purchased by members of the Heard family and Wilcomb family. Also on display are examples of Japanese porcelain and American silver from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Textiles

Special items in the collection include a sample of Trapunto quilting ca. 1650, a linsey-woolsy coverlet, samplers made by Ipswich girls, a gold-thread and embroidery piece, early embroidered “scenes,” and Chinese silk shawls.

Lace

The Museum’s collection includes lace made by women in the late 18th century, including the kind of black Ipswich Lace purchased by George Washington for his wife, Martha. Between 1789-90, 600 Ipswich women were recorded as lace makers. Ipswich was the only town in America making bobbin lace commercially. The collection also includes pillows and bobbins used by Ipswich lace makers.

Domestic Objects

Shown at the 1677 Whipple House are early cooking utensils, spinning wheels, reels, wool winders, weasels; cheese making; mortars, pestles; candle molds, a collection of oil lamps and lanterns, pewter dishes and stoneware dishes.
Items at the 1800 Heard House date to a later period, including women’s toiletry objects, sewing baskets, men’s walking sticks, and children’s toys and games.

Military

The Museum’s collection of guns dates to the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. Also featured are a collection of items belonging to the Civil War hero Col. Nathaniel Shatswell, including camp equipment, his uniform, and saddle.

Carriages

The 1800 Heard House carriage house contains a fine collection of late 19th century carriages, sleighs, a surrey, and a park drag.

Photographs

The Museum’s large collection of photographs dates from the late 19th century to the present, and includes images of mills, bridges, street scenes, and daguerreotypes.

Historic Books

The Museum houses the Ipswich Religious Library which was founded in 1791 and is the first circulating library in Ipswich. Other rare books include Anne Bradstreet’s Several Poems (1678) and two 17th-century Geneva Bibles.

Personal Papers

The Museum has a large collection of journals, wills, deeds, and letters dating from 1636. This includes papers relating to the Heard family and many other prominent families in Ipswich, including letters, journals, and mementoes. The Society also owns a large collection of manuscript material pertaining to Arthur Wesley Dow.

Ipswich Female Seminary

The Ipswich Female Seminary Room of the 1800 Heard House features Seminary books, student sketch books, writing desks, diplomas, botanicals, globes, and science equipment. The Museum has a complete collection of Seminary catalogs, from its founding in 1828 to its closing in 1878.