Art & Artifacts
The Forbush Memorial Library has been richly endowed with artistic and historical collections, much of which is displayed throughout the library. Our collections are also available for research purposes. Contact the Library Director for more information.
The main floor features a large collection of early 19th-century portraits by itinerant painter Deacon Robert Peckham (1785-1877). They are skillful renderings that represent local families of influence. It is both unusual that any collection holds 17 portraits done by a single artist and unusual that almost all of his subjects lived in one town with several related to each other (in fact, five are matched pairs of husband and wife). They are shown in their best apparel and, with Peckham’s considerable talent, each likeness is distinct. His attention to his sitter’s eyes and to the details of their clothing, especially the women’s lace, is the work of a highly skilled painter.
Peckham’s only surviving landscape is of Westminster’s Main Street done in 1831. It shows the present town center, now a historic district, viewed from the top of Academy Hill looking west.
Most of this collection was donated shortly after the present library building was dedicated in 1902. They have been on exhibit since the new addition was opened in 1997. Over the years, the library has had each of these works professionally conserved.
The family of Civil War General Nelson A. Miles (1839-1925), who was born in Westminster, has endowed the library with effects of his long military career which began in the Civil War. He served in every major battle except Gettysburg, was wounded four times, and was the youngest in the War to rise to the rank of General. He remained in the Army after the War, becoming the Army’s Commanding General until his retirement in 1905. On display are his saddle, uniforms, weapons, flags, and military honors. His full-length life-sized portrait by Eastman Johnson, done in 1904, is also on exhibit. Our archives hold his published memoirs as well as several volumes on his military career.
Charles Forbush was an avid reader and world traveler whose bequest enabled construction of the library in 1901. Forbush left souvenirs of his travels to Hawaii, Jamaica, east Asia, and Japan at the end of the 19th century. Some of these artifacts, which, among other items, include natural objects from the Caribbean and cartes-de-visites from Japan, are now displayed in the Eloranta Room.
We have several sculptures and ceramic reliefs by Olin L. Warner (1844-1896), a nationally recognized sculptor and artist raised in Westminster. After studying in France, he maintained a studio in New York City. He is best known for designing and casting the bronze doors for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Our collection includes seven works by him of family members shown in the Eloranta Room.
We hold a substantial collection of 18th- and 19th-century household items, such as: lighting devices, ceramics, early musical instruments, currency, glassware and toys. Additionally, we possess many photo portraits of Westminster residents from the late 19th century.
Also on display are early 20th century landscape paintings by several artists with local connections, including: Gamaliel Beaman, William S. Bucklin, William H. Chandler, F. V. Shumway and Wallace Nutting. Portraits of the library’s benefactors, done by Eva D. Cowdery, hang in the non-fiction room on the top floor.
Our contemporary artwork includes a six-foot square wall mural depicting Westminster’s early history done in 2002 by local artist Amy Kutka. You may also view the Centennial Quilt, now hanging in the Eloranta Room, which was created by a collaboration of 13 area quilters to honor the first hundred years of the library’s permanent home. A memorial quilt created to honor the life of Thelma Lebeaux, c. 2002, may be seen by request. E. Thor Carlson (1925-2013), of Gardner and Westminster, donated several paintings. Seven works by Oscar Walkonen (1905-1990), who spent his retirement years here, can be seen in the Children’s Room.
The library’s archives are composed of non-circulating books (current and historical). The archives contain works relating to genealogy, town and regional histories, the Civil War, works by local authors, and the library’s collections. These are available in the Hurd Room by appointment with the Library Director.