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The Museum of American Art Glass
by
Bob Brooke

 

There are plenty of museums in the United States that have collections of American art glass, but none tops the New Bedford of Glass in downtown New Bedford, Massachusetts. It’s now located in the James Arnold Mansion, known for being the home of the exclusive Wamsutta Club.



During the Victorian era, New Bedford became known as the “Art Glass Headquarters of America.” Rose Amber glass, Crown Milano, Royal Flemish, Burmese, and Lava glass are just a few of the exotic types of glass developed in New Bedford. The Museum has many fine examples in its 7,000-piece collection, which documents over 3,000 years of glassmaking history.

Objects in the collection cover many regions and periods, from ancient to contemporary, with special emphasis on the city of New Bedford, well known as the birthplace of late 19th- century art glass. Other highlights from the collection include blown and pressed tableware, cut glass, paperweights, cup plates, and 19th century lamps.

Mediterranean glass vessels dating back as far as 600 BCE represent the earliest pieces in the collection. One of the most unusual examples of ancient glass is a Roman form described as a unguentarium, essentially two blown glass bubbles worked together into a double-bottle shape. Every ancient glass vessel is extraordinary, however, simply for having survived intact.

Patented in 1878, Lava glass was the first art glass produced at New Bedford’s famous Mount Washington Glass Company. The formula incorporates volcanic slag from Sicily’s Mount Etna to create the black color, onto which a glassmaker gathered colored shards of glass. Extremely rare, the Stauffers’ collection of 24 examples represents an astonishing lifetime achievement.

In addition, there’s also the Marjorie L. & Warren P. Tingley Collection of American historical glass, the Carol Dean Bacik Collection of Vaseline Glass and the Ruth L. & Carl F. Barron Collection of American Victorian glass.

Early American blown and pressed glass, pattern glass, 17th and 18th century English tableware, Bohemian and Italian glass, Sandwich glass, lighting, marbles, cup plates, and many other popular categories all help to tell the fascinating story of glass.

Masterpieces from the collection include glass by Tiffany, Steuben, Lalique, Baccarat, Sandwich, Swarovski, Waterford, and many other celebrated makers. Of particular interest is the Crystal Kingdom, an extensive collection of glass animals that’s popular with younger visitors.

Besides the glass objects, the Museum also showcases many antique glassblowing tools, molds, and even a 6-foot-high glass press.

Hours
- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
           Saturday, Sunday Noon - 5:00 pm
           Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Admission - Adults: $8, Children ages 7-17: $3, Under 7: Free


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