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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2004 > To Collect and Preserve

To Collect and Preserve

ABOVE Alma Field Duckworth 1899–2003.

BELOW One of nine murals in the house by the itinerant artist and inventor Rufus Porter (1792–1884).

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Historic New England accepts be-quests of real and intangible property. If you are interested in including Historic New England in your estate plans, please call the development office at (617) 227-3956.

One day when she was one hundred and three years old, Mrs. Alma Field Duckworth called the man who was her executor and asked him if he thought she was too old to buy a piece of Paul Revere silver. "Certainly not," he replied. So, Mrs. Duckworth and some friends drove to an auction, where she purchased a silver tankard attributed to the renowned silversmith. On the way back, the group celebrated the event with this centenarian's first visit to a McDonald's restaurant.

Alma Rose Field was born at Cold Brook Farm in Montague, Massachusetts, in 1899, married, and lived much of her life in nearby Springfield. With her husband, Harold G. Duckworth, she was an avid collector of antiques, especially of glass, silver, and lusterware. At the age of eighty-eight, Mrs. Duckworth bought the c. 1792 Daniel Carr House in North Haverhill, New Hampshire, in 1987 and lovingly restored it with the help of her sister, Rebecca Field Jones, an artist. They took particular care to preserve the Rufus Porter murals and other decorative finishes throughout the house, whose period architecture provided the perfect setting for Mrs. Duckworth's collections.

Concerned about the long-term preservation of her home, Mrs. Duckworth contacted the Stewardship Program at SPNEA, (now Historic New England) in 1995. Upon her death, she left the house and its contents to SPNEA. The house was sold, following her wishes, with preservation restrictions administered by Historic New England's Stewardship Program, and the bulk of the collection was sold at auction. The sale of the house generated $375,000 for Historic New England's general endowment, while the sale of antiques raised more than $200,000, designated for the Alma Duckworth Fund for Collections.

Our work often brings us in contact with people devoted to preserving New England's cultural heritage. One of the most remarkable of these individuals was Mrs. Duckworth, who lived in three centuries, enjoyed a life-long enthusiasm for New England's past, and acted energetically and generously to preserve it.

-Shantia Anderheggen, Preservation Team Leader
-Richard C. Nylander, Senior Curator

From the CHAIR
Img_01The summer at Historic New England was busy with innovation, experimentation, and outreach. The launch of a public name change in June, with an updated logo, colorful printed materials, and new signs at key properties, helped make our sites and programs more welcoming to visitors. In Boston, the Otis House Museum welcomed Democratic National Convention attendees to the Beacon Hill historic neighborhood. Little Farm, in Newbury, Massachusetts, developed and tested family-friendly activities and used the image of a "mascot," Casey the Clock, on handouts for children. At several other properties, we began offering focused Private Heritage Tours to small groups by request. We are now planning new membership categories with benefits for historic homeowners and for people interested in landscapes and gardens.

Meanwhile, we are reaching out across the region and nation with programs and exhibitions, including the Verner Reed exhibition ( see page two ) at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts, and the acclaimed national traveling exhibition, Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy, now in Honolulu. The goal of all our programs is to help people enjoy our historic properties and artifacts and to experience, in a real and personal way, the lives and stories of New Englanders over four centuries.


-Janina Longtine, M.D.
To Collect and Preserve