Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum -June 2013

While many flock to the island for our pristine beaches and unspoiled open spaces, there are plenty of exhibits currently on display at museums around the island that offer a glimpse into its rich and extensive history.

by: Lindsay Pykosz

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

Nantucket lightship baskets may have traveled around the world during their lifetime, but many of them will be “Coming Home” for this year’s exhibit at the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum in an exhibit on display through mid-October.

The baskets featured in the new exhibition have been used or purchased for a variety of different reasons, whether it be as a gift or simply an investment, but all have been treasured and have their own stories.

“The way we come up with ideas is fairly collabora- tive,” museum executive director Maryann Wasik said. “We start thinking about it right now for the next year, and one of the things we try to do is make sure we come up with a theme that we can incorporate into various time periods because I think that’s important for visitors to see the transition as things have evolved over time. This one really kind of fell into our laps because we were able to make some contacts off-island with some people with some very substantial collections.”

Wasik added that many of these baskets haven’t been on-island for many years, and she and director Era Sylvia aren’t sure where a lot of them have been.

There are some baskets whose stories are known: A col- lection of sailor-made baskets, makers unknown, that are on-loan from Suzanne Courcier and Robert Wilkins, antiques dealers from Yarmouth Port, Mass; A swing-handled basket made by S.P. Boyer with a plate that reads, “I was made on Nantucket, I am strong and stout, don’t lose or burn me, I’ll never wear out;” A mini-purse with antique ivory overlay handle by Bill and Judy Sayle of Nantucket; and a Jose Reyes basket from a collector in Japan, circa 1948, with ebony whales by Charlie Sayle.

“We have an amazing collection of 10 cocktail purses that are a bit smaller than a traditional purse that were used as evening bags, and we have all of them from one collector in Rhode Island,” Wasik said. “What’s interest- ing about them is that, while they’re cocktail baskets, they represent so many different basket-makers. We’re very specific about trying to cover a large number of bas- ket-makers than covering a specific type of basket.”

When all is said and done, about 50-75 different baskets are included in the exhibit, including some from the mu- seum’s permanent collection. In addition, the works of two basket-makers, Davis Hall (1829-1906) and William “Bill” Sevrens (1916-2001) will be featured.

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