Saturday 13 November 2010

$50,000 - $150,000 Missing Sampler Presumed Stolen

This important sampler stitched by Mary Bowker and belonging to Burlington County Historical Society was left in a locked room for photographing on October 16 and has not been seen since. If you have seen or see it or have any information that may aid in its recovery please contact the Burlington County Historical Society at 457 High Street, Burlington, NJ 08016, 609-386-4773, or the Burlington City Police Department at its main number, 609-386-0262, or on its tip line at 609-233-8548.
Gloria Moore told me also that Burlington Historical Society is putting up 29 samplers, now 28 since Mary Bowker is sadly missing, for auction on 20 November and you can click here to access the sale catalogue. It is not unknown for museums and historical societies to behave like collectors at large, buying items and then later refining their collection to purchase other items. Two of the samplers in the sale come from Amy Finkel and so may have been bought by the museum, for the rest I have no precise knowledge. However, if items given to the museum are being deaccessioned and sold then it raises considerable issues for those collectors who might be planning to bequeath their collections to museums in the future. This is all very unsettling news.


  1. stolen?! I hope that someone find it! is very beautiful.
    have a wonderful weekend.

  2. It does bother me that a museum will sell its items, especially if if they were donated. But perhaps I should not be concerned as the person who buys it is probably doing so because they like and appreciate it. At least I can hope so.
    As to the item being stolen...I don't see how someone can live with themselves if they steal something like that.

  3. Yes this does pose a dilema. At my local guild we have a historical collection and a small space to keep it in. As more pieces are donated it gets to the point that you can't keep everything. So now we ask donors to sign a form saying that if the pieces are deemed to be dupicates, or not within the criteria of the collection, we can sell them or pass them onto another organisation. Donors are then informed in advance and if they feel uncomfortable with this they can donate them to another organisation.

  4. I live not far from Burlington County, and the plan to de-accession their needlework collection through an auction is far more upsetting to me than the theft! I clicked on the link provided above to learn that the money raised is going to be used to create "interactive exhibits"! BOSH!!! Pandering to short attention spans is what they are doing- that and making a museum trip "playtime" rather than learning/appreciating time. It is clear that the Burlington County Historical Society does not care about saving its cultural legacy, but is only looking for visitors, at whatever cost in the loss of REAL historical artifacts. How I wish my Catholic school teacher's salary were enough to buy one of these gorgeous pieces of history. We can only hope that those who can afford them also will know, or learn, how to protect them, and will somehow continue to allow them to be seen, studied and appreciated.

  5. My research partner, Janet Hasson, and I have both written letters questioning the wisdom of deaccessioning the sampler collection. Feel free to link, forward, or quote:

  6. I think this auction is apalling.Dr.Henry Bisbee will roll over in his grave in reguards to this.For those not in the know, Dr.Bisbee was the cornerstone and founder of the Burlington City Historical Society. He and his gracious wife ,Rebecca are why I am the history buff that I am today.
    Dr.B thought all things of historial import where required to stay within the location of its inception.
    I suppose that what I am saying is the Burl Co Historical Society has apparently lost sight of it's mission.
    When these items are sold ,they are gone for our collective eyes. never to be viewed upon by any more inquisitive future historians.
    The fact that these needleworks have survived for over two centuries ,alone deserves recognition,to sell them off as though they were found in grandma's dusty attic is pathetic.They were donated in good faith to the society for posterity. Not as fund raising items .