Norman Rockwell Museum, Exhibit
May 22 - June 20
A special anniversary installation “For the People: Memories of the Old Corner House” at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Celebrating the origins and evolution of the Museum in its original location at The Old Corner House on Stockbridge’s Main Street in 1969, it will be on view through October 27.
“For the People: Memories of the Old Corner House” revisits the early days of the Museum with archival photographs, memorabilia, and reminiscences. The restored, original Old Corner House sign, designed by Rockwell, will be on view. Photos of Rockwell family members and original Museum staff, video diaries of visitors, models, and staff present during the Museum’s seminal year will also be included.
“In addition to commemorating the Norman Rockwell’s origins, this exhibit also honors the local Stockbridge citizens who banded together to save a then 200- year old house on its Main Street, from demolition. Opening in 1969, originally as The Old Corner House and Stockbridge Historical Society –visitors flocked through the doors, primarily attracted by the Rockwell paintings on display, loaned by the artist,” explained Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “Norman Rockwell Museum exists today because of the dedication and generosity of the Stockbridge residents who worked so hard to save the Old Corner House.”
As part of Norman Rockwell Museum’s year of 50th Anniversary exhibitions and programs, “Memories of the Old Corner House” provides historical and local context for the major featured exhibitions opening on June 8th, including Norman Rockwell: Private Moments for the Masses; Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated; and Inspired: Norman Rockwell and Erik Erikson.
A Museum Built by Popular Demand
(A segment by Laurie Norton Moffatt originally written for the Museum’s 40th Anniversary Portfolio publication; revised here)
Norman Rockwell did not create his own museum, nor was the Old Corner House founded to be a museum dedicated to Norman Rockwell. Rather, founders Norma Ogden, Patricia Deely, and Rosamond Sherwood, led a civic and philanthropic initiative to save the historic home. Norman and Molly Rockwell were among the town’s citizens who joined the undertaking. When the Board was looking for programs and exhibitions for the house museum, which would include displays from the Stockbridge Historical Society, Rockwell generously asked, “Would you like to hang some of my pictures?”
His artwork had recently been returned to him from Curtis Publishing Company, publisher of the Saturday Evening Post in Philadelphia, and most of it was in storage at the Berkshire Museum, in Pittsfield. Several rooms in the Old Corner House were installed with his paintings, hung cheek to jowl, salon style, and on May 31, 1969, the doors were opened for business.
Like the subscribers to The Saturday Evening Post and other journals who eagerly awaited Rockwell’s next cover to arrive in their living rooms, public demand drove the growth of the Old Corner House. The 200-year-old home that opened its doors in 1969 with fewer than 5,000 visitors was, 10 years later, welcoming 90,000 visitors annually, with no end to audience appetite for Rockwell in sight.
Only four years after the opening of the Old Corner House, Norman Rockwell established his Art Collection Trust, placing his art in the care of the fledgling museum. Two years later, he added his studio and its contents to the Trust. As crowds continued to grow, the Board of Trustees faced the daunting challenge of providing for the collection’s permanent care and accommodating Rockwell’s devoted public. In 1980, the Board voted to either expand or build a new home for Norman Rockwell’s collection. And thus the nation’s most popular artist, who rose from the ranks of the nation’s most democratic visual art form, the art of illustration, came to have his own museum through the force of fervent public demand.
To date: Norman Rockwell Museum has welcomed over 6 million visitors in Stockbridge, with 34 years at the Old Corner House, and 26 years at the larger campus on Glendale Road.
About The Old Corner House
The Old Corner House was purchased in 2016 by the Austen Riggs Center, a renowned psychiatric hospital on Main Street in Stockbridge. On May 25, in celebration of its centennial year, Riggs will open part of the Old Corner House with the exhibition, “The Hospital on Main Street: Human Dignity and Mental Health,” that chronicles its founding and place in the history of mental health treatment and research.