Jennifer Carman Calls Site "A Precious Gift"(Posted: May 8, 2011)
It took more than six months of her time, but when Jennifer Carman finished her work, she had evaluated and appraised more than 1,000 items from the Drennen-Scott Home in Van Buren – paintings, furniture, silver, ceramics and documents.
Those 1,000 items, which included more than 100 pieces of furniture, are in what is now called the Drennen-Scott Historic Site. The University of Arkansas - Fort Smith is opening this part of its campus in May after restoring the home for use as a museum. Rotating displays will allow visitors to the site to see a bit of what life was like in the 1800s. The site is also being used for academic purposes, with classes held there.
Carman, president of J. Carman Inc. Fine & Decorative Art of Little Rock, said the collection was, for the most part, in "exquisite" condition.
"It was simply astonishing to see the variety of items that had survived in near-pristine condition," said Carman, who added that she often sees works that have fallen victim to the ravages of time and the shuffling of hands through many generations of ownership.
"I find the majority of damage occurs when objects are moved or transported from one location to another," she said. "It is my belief that this collection has avoided these perils largely due to the fact that they have continued to reside in the same residence continuously. Their condition is a real testament to the diligence and care of the family members who have lived in the home alongside these phenomenal objects."
UA Fort Smith purchased the Drennen-Scott Home and 26 acres of property in 2005 from the descendents of John Drennen and Charles Scott. Grants allowed UA Fort Smith to make the purchase and restore the home and its contents, which Carman said ranged in size from a button-sized daguerreotype of John Drennen to a Steinway grand piano manufactured between 1878 and 1880. Furnishings at the Drennen-Scott Historic site are the property of the Historic Arkansas Museum.
"The largest works are in the parlor," said Carman, and are a Steinway and Sons Square Grand Piano made in New York and a pair of Giltwood Second Empire Pier Glasses, or mirrors, which are more than six feet tall and are likely Continental in origin."
Carman was able to identify the daguerreotype of Drennen because it is a similar pose to one found in oil portraits in the collection, saying it was possible the artist may have used the photo to work from to some degree. A daguerreotype was the first publicly available photographic process developed in 1839.
Carman said visitors to the site should expect to see a phenomenal historic home restoration in which they will be able to trace the story of the property and some of its noteworthy residents.
"They will notice a variety of Victorian furniture," she said, "including examples in rosewood, walnut and mahogany," she said. "A variety of styles will be represented, including Renaissance Revival, Rococo Revival and Empire. Also of great importance are a group of paintings that portray various residents of the home."
She said the hallway will include the oldest furniture piece in the collection, a George II Mahogany Longcase Clock made by Joshua Hewlett (active 1748-1764), an English clockmaker based in Bristol.
"It has a stepped hood over a caddy pediment, with a painted image of Father Time in the arch," she said. "The bookmarked veneers on the front of the case are simply beautiful."
She does have a favorite item that she hopes visitors will notice – the mural that adorns the parlor.
"I have long had an interest in the history of women artists," she said, "and was delighted to see that this work was signed by Mary E. Trivett, a Cincinnati artist who lived from 1868 to 1941."
Carman explained that Trivett was commissioned to create a large-scale canvas mural for the Woman's Building and the Arkansas Building at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. What is seen in the parlor are segments of the work, segments Carman said were undoubtedly brought home by a resident of the Drennen house. She also said remaining segments of this mural are in the Arkansas History Commission collection in Little Rock.
"For me, this mural is a reminder of just how inextricably linked the Drennen and Scott families are with the history of the State of Arkansas," said Carman, who not only can appraise collections like what is in the Drennen-Scott Historic Site, but who can also tell the history for almost every piece.
Carman said the public will enjoy what she called "one of the most sensitive, accessible and accurate historic restorations" she has had the privilege of seeing.
"What a precious gift for residents and visitors," she said.
Carman recently toured the structure with Tom Wing, the site director, and is enthused about the restoration work on the structure itself. Wing, likewise, is enthused about the work Carman has done.
"She knows that furniture better than anybody," said Wing.
Carman is the only certified personal property appraiser in Arkansas with a designation in "American Art" from the Appraiser's Association of America.
She has a bachelor's in art from Hendrix College and a master's in art history from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She is a "Graduate Connoisseur" of Christie's Auction House in London, a program which allowed extensive object handling, both at the auction venue and in London museum and country house collections. She has additional appraisal training through the American Society of Appraisers.
Her appraisal documents adhere to the guidelines contained in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, as set forth by the Appraisal Foundation in Washington, D.C.
(This article was one of 11 prepared by UA Fort Smith for the Press Argus-Courier to use in a May 11, 2011, newspaper supplement that highlighted the opening of the Drennen-Scott Historic Site.)
Other stories include:
"Drennen-Scott Historic Site Opens in May" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3055
"Drennen-Scott Historic Site Serves as Lab" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3056
"Descendents Want Others to Share Their History" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3057
"Restoration of Home Called 'Labor of Love'" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3058
"John Drennen's Legacy Lives On" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3059
"It Began with John Drennen in 1801!" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=current&storyid=3060
"Grad Calls Drennen Site 'A True Treasure'" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=&storyid=3061
"Drennen-Scott Historic Site "A Promise Kept'" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=&storyid=3063
"Archeological Survey Reveals the Past One Layer at a Time" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=&storyid=3064
"Trees Establish House Construction Dates" – www.uafortsmith.edu/News/Index?skin=&storyid=3065
|Article by: Sondra LaMar, Director of Public Relations|
|Photo(s) by: Kat Wilson, Photographer, Marketing & Communications Office|