Bruce Museum Collection Favorites

Zuni Jar Including Deer with “Heart Line” Design. Coiled ceramic. c. 1901. Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico. Bruce Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Robert Horton, 80.28

Postosuchus kirkpatricki skeleton (cast). Museum purchase, Triebold Paleontology

Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935), The Mill Pond, Cos Cob, 1902
Oil on canvas. Bruce Museum Collection, Anonymous gift, 1994.

Silk evening gown, c. 1895. House of Worth. Bruce Museum Collection, 20480-1.

Daniel Ridway Knight (1839-1924), Brittany Girl, n.d.. Oil on canvas, 31x27 in. Bruce Museum Collection, 13412.

Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch (Swiss, 1525-1572) Monstra Marina & Terrestria from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (mid-late 16th century) woodcut.

Bausch and Lomb Baloptican Micro-projection Apparatus, mid-1890s, Gift of Dr. Edward Fuller Bigelow, 1925.

Each year, the Bruce Museum presents more than a dozen exhibitions of art and science, with many of the artworks and items drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection of more than 15,000 objects in fine and decorative art, natural history and anthropology.

Here, Museum staff members share their thoughts, plus historical detail and context, as well as some fun facts about their favorite objects from the Bruce Museum Collection.

Zuni Jar Including Deer with “Heart Line” Design. Coiled ceramic. c. 1901. Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico. Bruce Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Robert Horton, 80.28

In 2014, I curated an exhibition highlighting the Bruce Museum’s collection of Southwest Native American pottery. Geometric patterns and natural motifs appeal to my personal aesthetic, and pieces created by Native American artists often include excellent examples of this type of imagery. Potters paint designs onto the vessel before it is fired, using either slip or a paint made of natural materials. Designs are frequently symbolic, representing the wishes or needs of the Pueblo people. Artists incorporate motifs, such as rain clouds, mountains, plants, and animals, to invoke much-needed rain to the arid environment. These motifs are often repeated, generation after generation, with each artist bringing a unique style to the symbolism. The deer with the “heart line” design, seen in both early twentieth century and contemporary Zuni pieces like this piece from the Museum’s collection, signifies a connection between the deer’s breath and its heart.

Kathleen Holko, Manager of School and Tour Services

Postosuchus kirkpatricki skeleton (cast). Museum purchase, Triebold Paleontology​

In our collection of science specimens, I am particularly fond of our Postosuchus skeleton. Postosuchus lived in the late Triassic, a time when dinosaurs roamed a united Pangea. Though Postosuchus might look like a dinosaur itself, it was actually part of a group of reptiles more closely related to crocodiles. Reaching an impressive 13 feet long and with jaws full of sharp teeth, Postosuchus was an ecologically important apex predator of its day. When I look at Postosuchus, I feel the same awe as if I gazed upon a tiger, for it surely was a dangerous, powerful, and majestic animal in life. Unfortunately, Postosuchus and most of its relatives fell extinct at the end of the Triassic, leaving only small fox-like reptiles remaining from the crocodile branch of the tree of life. This wave of extinction is what allowed dinosaurs to diversify and thrive in the Jurassic, finally at the top of the food chain. 

Kate Dzikiewicz, Science Curatorial Associate / Seaside Center Manager

Frederick Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935), The Mill Pond, Cos Cob, 1902

Oil on canvas. Bruce Museum Collection, Anonymous gift, 1994.

When invited to choose my favorite piece in the Bruce Museum’s permanent collection of artwork, my mind returned, time and again, to Fredrick Childe Hassam’s painting The Mill Pond.  Hassam, who lived in New York City and summered in New England, was a member of the Old Lyme Art Colony in Old Lyme, CT, and an outstanding member of the American Impressionist movement. The Bruce has an impressive collection of American Impressionists. As I have learned more about their work, I am consistently drawn to Hassam, and his desire to paint what was around him, to paint what he saw. The subject of this painting, what is now the present-day Cos Cob Harbor and the train trestle bridge at its mouth, has long been a feature of my personal landscape. As a former Connecticut resident, now living in New York City, this bridge, and this harbor, are a constant feature of my travels, and is as visually interesting to me today as they were to Hassam more than a century ago.  

Corinne Flax, Manager of School and Community Partnerships

Silk evening gown, c. 1895. House of Worth. Bruce Museum Collection, 20480-1.

If you have ever visited the Bruce for Youth and Family programs, you may have seen some of my novelty print dresses. Given my love of fashion, when it came to selecting a piece from the Museum’s permanent collection, I chose this silk evening gown from House of Worth. House of Worth was a French haute couture clothing company, and one of its designers specialized in creating unique pieces for events like masquerade balls and weddings. House of Worth dresses were custom-made for their clients, based on fabric, trim, and fit. This dress really spoke to me as it has a beautiful silk patterned fabric, featuring bouquets of flowers, and a gorgeous trim that looks like petals of leaves around the bodice and sleeves. As I pursue my love of fashion by learning how to sew, it is so exciting to explore the Bruce’s textile collection and see pieces like this dress, all hidden gems waiting to be shared. 

Megan Brown, Manager of Youth and Family Programs

Daniel Ridway Knight (1839-1924), Brittany Girl, n.d.. Oil on canvas, 31x27 in. Bruce Museum Collection, 13412.

When I started working at the Bruce Museum, an exhibition titled Canvas and Cast was on display; the exhibition included only works from the Museum’s collection. As I roamed the gallery, familiarizing myself with the space and the works, I turned the corner and came face to face with this piece and audibly gasped. Painted by Philadelphia native Daniel Ridgway Knight, Brittany Girl is an example of some of his favorite subjects, the French countryside and French peasants, usually women. Ridgeway spent most of his career in France, among Impressionists such as Alfred Sisley and Auguste Renoir, and often used the Impressionist painting method en plein air or painting outside. The rural setting of this painting reminded me immediately of my home in rural North Carolina, and the girl reminded me of many of the people I knew there. Seeing this lovely piece transported me to humid spring days and fields that smelled of fresh turned earth and newly sprouted plants, and helped alleviate a bit of my homesickness while I settled into my new home in Connecticut. 

Diana Rafferty, Coordinator of Audience Engagement

Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch (Swiss, 1525-1572) Monstra Marina & Terrestria from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (mid-late 16th century) woodcut. 

My favorite work from the Bruce Museum Collection is the woodcut Monstra Marina & Terrestria by Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch. This print originally illustrated a copy of Cosmographia, a 16th century description of the world by cartographer and Hebrew scholar Sebastian Münster. It accompanied the text’s section on Scandinavia and depicts the creatures that were thought to inhabit this region. These beasties reflect a mixture of aquatic animal sightings, sailor’s tales, and ideas from ancient sources such as the notion that each land animal had an ocean equivalent. 

Monsters are one of my favorite art subjects because I think that these beings are where we, as viewers, really get to see an artist’s creativity and imagination. I have a particular soft spot for sea creatures because my first job in a museum was as a volunteer researcher investigating a 16th century Italian print of sirens. Hans Rudolf Manuel Deutsch, by depicting these creatures as both marvelously monstrous and wonderfully whimsical, beautifully captures the balance between horror and humor that I think characterizes the best depictions of beasties. 

H.S. Miller, Zvi Grunberg Resident Fellow, 2019-20

Bausch and Lomb Baloptican Micro-projection Apparatus

This projection microscope dates to the mid-1890s and was formerly owned by Dr. Edward Fuller Bigelow, president of the Agassiz Association and founding curator of the Bruce Museum. He was famous for his lantern slide and micro-projection presentations and performed them for thousands of teachers, students, and laypersons over his career. This apparatus was state-of-the-art for its time and surely commanded much wonder and awe during its long period of use. It used a carbon arc lamp for illumination, which at the time produced light 200 times brighter than the best bulb available. It did this by running high electrical current through two carbon rods. The resulting carbon vapor was highly luminous and created a strong, brilliant light. Bigelow was famous for magnifying living protozoans by two-hundred thousand times life-size and also projecting an image of a honeybee stinger onto a wall fifteen to twenty feet in width. Bigelow would travel with this case and also a magic lantern projector, showing glass slides of wildflowers, bee hives, and groups of nature study enthusiasts exploring outdoors. One of the most spectacular presentations Bigelow would give with this micro-projector was to place a tiny trout fry into a special live-well slide and project this living thing so large that the audience could witness the red corpuscles flowing through its veins. In the 1890s this must have been an astounding sight. Presentations of this form continued at the Bruce Museum after Bigelow donated the equipment in 1925. Hundreds of school children were astounded at the spectacle; so much so that there was a big uproar when the museum discontinued it in the 1930s.

Tim Walsh, Collections Manager