red cupboardFor the most part, this blog showcases artifacts that have not yet had their chance to shine in an exhibit. Occasionally, though, I’ll put up something that is on display in one of our museums, but is usually overlooked as just part of the furniture (at least when I give a tour). To inaugurate this feature, I give you… the Red Cupboard.

The red cupboard stands in the corner of the kitchen.  It is somewhat unprepossessing, and ever since we acquired our much flashier pie safe it has been completely overlooked on every tour I’ve given of the house. Yet the red cupboard does have its own bit of backstory, worthy of mention. For one thing, it is still covered in its original casein paint (also called milk paint), colored with ox blood; as “Antiques Roadshow” fans know, original finishes are where it’s at. A previous cataloger, better versed in the terminology of furniture than I, described the cupboard as: “Primitive flat top, double tongue-and-groove construction on doors with swivel wood peg catch, two shelves, lower section with matching doors.” It certainly isn’t the fanciest piece of furniture in the house, but it’s not just a slapped-together utilitarian piece, either; some thought and care was put into its construction.

More importantly for our purposes, this piece is one of the few artifacts “original to the house,” by which we mean “it was there before the Davis family moved in.” When the Davises acquired the property in the 1940s, almost all of the furniture accumulated by the Beall and Dawson families over the years had been sold or otherwise dispersed. Some of these things have since been donated to the Historical Society, but for the most part the house is furnished with “like” pieces. Our tea table and this red cabinet were both found in the basement by the Davises; although their history prior to ending up in the basement is unknown, they are part of a select group of pieces with direct ties to the house. We’re planning an exhibit on the history of the Beall-Dawson House, and the fate of its contents, for 2010; then the red cupboard will finally get its time in the (metaphorical) sun!