The Sara Roby Collection -July 2019

Modern American realism, works of art from late Nantucket collector Sara Roby, returned to the island on loan to the Nantucket historical Association from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. the exhibit was the debut for the NHA’s new Fine Arts Gallery, which opened in June.

by: Brian Bushard

Dan Elias walked into the Winter Antiques Show at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan in January. He ran into a familiar face: Nantucket Historical Association executive director James Russell.

They had known each other for the past 25 years. Elias, the former host of PBS’ nationally-syndicated television program, “Antiques Roadshow,” and former curator at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, was looking for his next job. Russell told him the NHA curator, Michael Harrison, was preparing to leave the Nantucket Whaling Museum. One month later, Elias had a job on Nantucket.

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper, 1950, oil on canvas 34 1/8 x 40 1/4 in.

He recently sat down with Nantucket Today in the museum to talk about his move to the island, his transition from television, and a new public exhibit at the museum.

Nantucket Today:

You were the host of “Antiques roadshow” for three years. Are there any parallels between hosting a show where you talk about antiques and curating a museum exhibit? Are there any lessons you can take to a museum from your time in television?

Dan Elias:

“Telling a story is part of what i’ve been doing for my entire life, and part of what makes me an untraditional curator. ‘Antiques roadshow’ gave me a tremendous appreciation for the audience, because the audience was the source of everything there. they brought the objects to us, and we made a museum around them by providing information about them.

The objects, either in the show or in an exhibit, are, in some cases, the only physical, tangible history we have. the Whaling Museum has stories that are associated with those objects. I became fascinated with how humans can invest meaning in these objects through stories.”


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