Friday, December 5, 2008

The Harris Portraits will Stay at Home

A couple of months ago I learned about an auction which was happening not far from here in Port Royal. The auction was for the estate of a very popular and kind couple who had been spending their summers in the Annapolis Royal region for decades. In fact, the gentleman who had passed away had family roots which went back in this community into the 1740s. As such, there were a great number of artifacts which had some relevance to the artifact collections of the Annapolis Heritage Society. The AHS President, Barry Moody, took the lead in trying to sort out which artifacts were important and we organized a fund to hopefully purchase the desired material.

Included in the items we desired was a signed wooden blanket box, a sampler done by a family member and two family portraits from the 1840s. We were able to successfully bid on the box and the sampler but there was a bidding frenzy on the paintings. The bids kept climbing and climbing and the atmosphere was decidedly electric (possibly because we were standing in a rain storm). By the end of the bidding another bidder had purchased the paintings as our reserves were not sufficient. To say that we were crestfallen was an understatement. A pair of paintings which had been in Annapolis County since the 1840s were on their way out of province. This was sadly another piece of Annapolis heritage which would be lost.

Perhaps this is where fate intervened. Not satisfied to let the paintings go, Barry Moody decided to contact the purchaser. He then asked him a fairly simple question. How much would it cost to buy the paintings. After some discussions, a price was determined and we began a campaign to try to raise the money.

In the meantime, Barry had met our local MLA Stephen McNeil at a charity event. Barry discussed the paintings with Stephen and asked if there was anything he or the Province of Nova Scotia could do to help. Well, it turns out there was. After discussing the situation with the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, we were able to secure a grant to cover the cost of the purchase. I am happy to say that the Harris family portraits will not be leaving Annapolis County. We are very grateful to the Province of Nova Scotia and Stephen McNeil for their help.

Last night at our volunteer reception we were able to unveil the portraits in their new home in the O'Dell House Museum parlour for the first time. Next week I will make an additional post on this topic and relate the history of the paintings and their importance to our community.

All for now,
RGS

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