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How were military objects created, used, and collected during and after the Revolutionary War? What personal memories and meanings did these objects hold for the War’s survivors, veterans, and later generations who sought to save them as relics of the Revolutionary era?

The 2022 Conference on Collecting the Revolutionary War brought historians, museum professionals, and collectors together to discuss how ideas about these objects have influenced collecting and public history over the past 250 years. With topics in material culture ranging from family and national treasures to battlefield archaeology, the 2022 Conference on Collecting the Revolutionary War explored the first generation of collectors in the 1770s, early institutional collections founded in the 1800s, and more recent discoveries about these wartime artifacts and their influence on historical interpretation in collections, exhibitions, and digital initiatives today. This conference aimed to inspire a scholarly investigation of the meaning of Revolutionary War collections and to deepen curatorial conversations about how priorities in collecting should fit into upcoming commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War.

The 2022 Conference on Collecting the Revolutionary War was inspired by the Museum's special exhibition Liberty: Don Troiani’s Paintings of the Revolutionary War, open through Sept. 5, 2022.

Powder Horn of Major Edward Sherburne
Powder Horn of Major Edward Sherburne (died 1777) of Portsmouth, NH, attributed to Jacob Gay. Inscribed: “EDWARD / SHERBURNE / HIS Horn / Janr : 23 : 1776 / SUCCESS / TO / Liberty / MADE AT CAMBRIDGE.” William H. Guthman Collection, Historic Deerfield

Opening Keynote

In “Revealing the Culture of Conflict: Engraved Powder Horns from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution,” Philip Zea, President Emeritus at Historic Deerfield, presented the world of the citizen soldier through the cultural meanings of powder horns and related equipment. An exhibition and catalog in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of American Independence are in production at Historic Deerfield slated to debut in April 2025.

The keynote was preceeded by an introduction and comment by M. Denise Dennis, President & CEO, Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust, on "A Powder Horn in the Family: The Gershom Prince Powder Horn."

About Philip Zea

Philip Zea Historic Deerfield Headshot

Philip Zea became President & CEO of Historic Deerfield, Inc. in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 2003. He worked as Vice President for Museums and Collections at the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (now Historic New England) in Boston between 2001 and 2003 and prior to that as Curator of Furniture at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was employed previously by Historic Deerfield for eighteen years, concluding as Deputy Director and Chief Curator. Zea has also been a staff member of the New Hampshire Historical Society, where he is now on the board of trustees. He has consulted for many museums on the topics of early furniture, clocks, engraved powder horns and historical interpretation. A New Hampshire native, Zea holds degrees from Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, and the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture at the University of Delaware. He is the 2009 recipient of the Award of Merit from the Antiques Dealers’ Association of America (A.D.A.) and the 2017 President’s Award at Old Sturbridge Village where he began his career in 1974. Zea is a former board member of Old Salem Museum and Gardens in North Carolina, the Decorative Arts Trust, the George Washington Foundation in Fredericksburg, VA., and the Enfield Shaker Museum in New Hampshire. He has lectured and written widely, including Clock Making in New England, 1725-1825: An Interpretation of the Old Sturbridge Village Collection (1992), with Robert C. Cheney; The Dunlap Cabinetmakers: A Tradition in Craftsmanship (1994), with Donald Dunlap; and most recently with Jean Burks for the Shelburne Museum, Rich and Tasty: Vermont Furniture to 1850 (2015), which won the 2016 Honor Book Award from Historic New England. 

Conference Speakers

Zara Anishanslin
Associate Professor of History and Art History, University of Delaware
Talk: “Domesticating Revolution: Patriot Women and Children, Military Men, and the Material Culture of Bringing Battle Home” 

Heidi Campbell-Shoaf
Museum Director & Chief Curator, DAR Museum
Talk: “Souvenirs of the Revolution: The DAR and Its Museum”

Michael Galban
Historic Site Manager & Curator, Seneca Art & Culture Center, Ganondagan State Historic Site
Talk: “Carrying the Mat of War”

Erik Goldstein
Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts & Numismatics, Colonial Williamsburg
Talk: “With Pick & Shovel: Relics of the Revolution from New York City”

Seth Kaller
President, Seth Kaller Inc.
Talk: "Declarations of Desire: Museums, Collectors, Markets, and America’s Founding Document"

Matthew Keagle
Curator, Fort Ticonderoga
Talk: “Allies Undressed: Discovering the Clothing of the French Army in the Revolutionary Era”

David E. (Ned) Lazaro 
Curator of Textiles, Historic Deerfield
Talk: “Pattern Pieces: Clothing the American Revolution at Historic Deerfield”

Whitney Martinko
Associate Professor of History, Villanova University
Talk: "Mr. Peale's Corporation: Museum Building in the Early United States"

Katie McKinney
Margaret Beck Pritchard Associate Curator of Maps & Prints, Colonial Williamsburg
Talk: "'And, indeed what is the history of a country without maps?': The Legacy of Sebastian Bauman’s Plan of the Investment of Gloucester and York"

Philip Mead
Chief Historian and Curator, Museum of the American Revolution
Talk: "'The companion of my sore fatigues': Collecting and Preservation Among Soldiers and Other Combatants of the Revolutionary War"

Emily Parsons
Deputy Director and Curator, The Society of the Cincinnati 
Talk: "Art and the Art of War: The Revolutionary War Collections of the Society of the Cincinnati"

Eric H. Schnitzer
Author of Don Troiani’s Campaign to Saratoga-1777
Talk: “British Cartridge Boxes and Pouches: A Case Study Exemplifying the Relevance of Military Material Culture Nomenclature in the American War for Independence”

Matthew Skic
Curator of Exhibitions, Museum of the American Revolution
Talk: "Recent Acquisitions at the Museum of the American Revolution"

Adrienne Whaley
Director of Education & Community Engagement, Museum of the American Revolution
Talk: "Yaktrax, Scuba Flippers, and Jewelry for a Horse’s Foot: Object-Centered Learning and the Revolutionary War"

David F. Wood
Curator, Concord Museum
Talk: “The Sacred Collection: Relics of the Revolution at the Concord Museum”

Young Friends Artifact Flash Talks & Happy Hour

Neal Hurst
Colonial Williamsburg

Clare McCabe
Museum of the American Revolution

Adam McNeil
Rutgers University

David Niescior
The Old Barracks Museum

Andrew Outten
Society of the Cincinnati

Samantha Snyder
George Washington's Mount Vernon

With special thanks to our sponsors, Freeman's, Bonhams Skinner, and American Battlefield Trust, for their support.

  • Freeman's Auction logo with Freeman's in black text and freemansauction.com underneath.
  • Bonhams Skinner Auction logo on a red square with Skinner in white text at the top of the square.
  • American Battlefield Trust Logo