Alexandra Kirtley Shares Decorative Arts Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sep 22, 2020

On September 15, 2020, the Trust had the honor of sharing the last tour of the current installation of American decorative arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). Alexandra Kirtley, the charismatic Montgomery-Garvan Curator of American Decorative Arts,  led us through the early American art galleries, which are currently closed to the public so that works can be conserved and prepared for reinstallation.

Early American fine and decorative art has been featured in this space at the PMA since 1976, when her majesty Queen Elizabeth opened the galleries for the bicentennial show. Alexandra has worked with these galleries for almost 20 years and feels the farewell is almost bittersweet.

However, the new galleries double the square footage used to showcase American art from the 18th and 19th centuries. In these new galleries, approximately 20% of the PMA’s incredible American decorative arts collection will be on display. Object rotations will occur regularly in the new galleries, and visitors will be able to see new objects come out of storage every four to six months. The curatorial staff looks forward to sharing new interpretation and perspective in the spring of 2021.

Alexandra shared highlights of the collections and discoveries she made while working on a new publication, American Furniture, 1650–1840: Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This catalogue is the first publication dedicated to American furniture at the PMA. The volume is sure to be an important resource for scholars of American furniture. Alexandra included a lively introduction to the donors, curators, and personalities who have shaped the collection and also illuminated the cultural and mercantile life of early America. Be sure to pre-order her publication available on Amazon now.

Watch the clip below to see Alexandra’s engaging tour and hear more about the incredible objects in the PMA’s collection.


Trust Tours is a monthly virtual program that gives viewers the opportunity to go behind the scenes and experience incredible collections live. Curators, collectors, and lovers of decorative arts share favorite objects. The Decorative Arts Trust was delighted that Alexandra Kirtley agreed to host our first Trust Tour.

Visit the Trust’s calendar of events for upcoming Trust Tour online programs and events in other series we are creating. We also encourage those interested to sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. The Trust appreciates the support of members and donors.

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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