Shelburne Museum Announces Endowed Curatorship in Honor of Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen


Contact: Leslie Wright, (802) 985-0880

Shelburne Museum Announces Endowed Curatorship

in Honor of Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen


SHELBURNE, Vt. (April 25, 2023) Shelburne Museum has endowed its curatorship of American Decorative Arts in honor of its long-time trustee Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, herself a senior curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

“Establishing this important position in Nonnie’s honor is in thankful recognition of her years of exemplary service as a trustee of Shelburne Museum as well as her extraordinary career as a leading curator in the field of American Decorative Arts,” said Thomas Denenberg, the John Wilmerding Director and CEO of Shelburne Museum. “It gives us great pleasure to acknowledge Nonnie’s myriad contributions to the field. I am particularly touched by the large community of supporters and donors who came together to make this position a reality in such generous fashion.”

In her remarks at a celebratory dinner hosted by Shelburne’s trustees, Frelinghuysen thanked the many benefactors who established the endowed chair in her honor and described “immense gratification” in her work at Shelburne, which she described as a “unique museum with an astonishing and eclectic collection first imagined by its visionary founder and collector, Electra Havemeyer Webb.”

The Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen Curatorship in American Decorative Arts is devoted to creating intellectually rigorous exhibitions that engage the public and advance scholarship around the museum’s collections that include 18th– and 19th-century American ceramics, glass, metalwork, furniture, and textiles and ensures that the decorative arts will forever remain an important institutional priority. Katie Wood Kirchhoff, who joined the museum in 2016, will be the first Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen Curator of American Decorative Arts.

“I am deeply honored to have this curatorship established in my name at Shelburne Museum, an institution that holds a special significance to me. I am touched by the generosity of the many donors and friends of Shelburne who made this endowment possible,” Frelinghuysen said. “It has been a privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees and witness the museum’s dedication to preserving and promoting American decorative arts. I look forward to the continued advancement of scholarship and engagement with the museum’s remarkable collections.”

The establishment of this endowed curatorship is notable as one of the only named in honor of a living curator and one of the few named for a woman in the field.

Philippe de Montebello, former Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, speaking at the recent dinner celebrating the new position, praised Shelburne Museum for recognizing Frelinghuysen in a way that places scholarship in the foreground.

“This endowed chair is a testament to the remarkable contributions and achievements of Nonnie Frelinghuysen, whose dedication to the decorative arts and unwavering commitment to curatorial excellence have left an indelible mark on The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the museum field as a whole,” de Montebello said.

Frelinghuysen has been actively involved in the field of decorative arts for more than 40 years, rising from Assistant Curator to Associate Curator and subsequently holding an endowed chair at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for the last two decades. She was awarded a B.A. in the Department of Art and Architecture from Princeton University and earned her M.A. from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. Frelinghuysen has curated numerous major exhibitions while concurrently authoring publications of record. She is a leading authority on Louis Comfort Tiffany, Herter Brothers and American glass, porcelain and art pottery. Her writing has won awards from the American Ceramic Circle, the Victoria Society of America and the New York State Historical Association. In addition to serving on the Shelburne Museum Board of Trustees for 28 years, she has been a member of several professional advisory committees and boards including the Board of Trustees of Princeton University, the American Ceramic Circle and the Editorial Board of Ceramics in America.

Katie Wood Kirchhoff will be the first Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen Curator at Shelburne Museum. Since 2016 she has held the positions of Associate Curator and subsequently Curator of American Decorative Arts at Shelburne. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, an M.A. from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, and a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware.


Image caption:  Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen, the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

High-res images available HERE.


About Shelburne Museum

Shelburne Museum is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture. The Museum experience is built on the wonder of discovering and exploring unique collections on view in 39 buildings on a 45-acre campus with more than 20 gardens. The buildings, including many notable examples of 18th– and 19th-century

architecture, house important collections ranging from French Impressionist paintings to American folk art. The Museum’s eclectic holdings form the foundation of an exceptional and unparalleled learning experience that immerses visitors in fine art, folk art, history and design.

The Museum is the remarkable result of one trailblazer’s passion and commitment to a unique vision. Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960) was one of the very few women collectors of her time. She founded the museum in 1947 to make her vast personal collections accessible to the public and create “an educational project, varied and alive” for all of Vermont and beyond. Mrs. Webb’s original collections of fine art, folk art, decorative art, waterfowl decoys, textiles, wheeled vehicles and more formed the basis for a collection that now numbers more than 100,000 objects.

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