Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts reopens in Bethlehem with New Exhibits and Programming for All Ages

Aug 22nd, 2013Press Release from Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites

Bethlehem, PA– The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts reopens to the public on Friday, September 20.  The museum was renovated to include a two-story, environmentally-controlled collections resource center  that provides open storage for nearly 40% of Historic Bethlehem’s artifacts, including paintings, textiles, toys, furniture, and one of the country’s largest antique dollhouse collections.  Visitors will step into Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites’ Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, a uniquely intimate and personal exploration of style and design spanning the town’s rich and eclectic history.  Visitors will be led through the development of decorative arts in the Lehigh Valley from Moravian craftspeople who first settled the area in 1741 to nineteenth century pioneers of industrial design and manufacture.   See Moravian Jedediah Weiss’s talents in his stately tall case clock and dainty silver utensils, and see the results of Allentown’s Gottlieb Buehler and his quest to become part of the American dream with his popular furniture manufacturing company.  Visitors will have the opportunity to immerse themselves within the museum’s collections, getting up close and personal with many objects through certified guided tours and through personal exploration.

The Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts will feature regular activities and programs for all ages based on our rotating exhibits and permanent collections.

Have your relatives donated pieces to the museum?  Do you want to know more about an object you’ve seen featured on display?  Looking for a unique educational experience for your children?  Additionally the museum offers space by appointment for personal research and investigation of objects from the collections.

The renovated space also includes an observation room, where guests can request to view artifacts from the collection; an interactive play area for children with dolls and toys, sponsored by Once Upon a Tree House; and countless collection items that have been packed away in storage for decades, now on display and exhibit for the first time.

Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites invites you to experience the beauty and history of the Kemerer Museum through public museum hours, new programs, and special events. The museum will be open for general admission Friday through Sunday from 11am to 4pm beginning Friday, Saturday, September 20. Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children; members visit for free.

Opening exhibitions

The renovated Kemerer Museum can now house several exhibits and will open with the following on September 20.

Stitched Together: Samplers from Past and Present – Through April 27, 2014

The exhibit, which features work by members of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Embroiders’ Guild of America, will explore needlework artists from yesterday and today and reflect on how their pieces affected decorative arts.

Modern samplers will both complement and contrast needlework created by young girls living and educated in Bethlehem between 1810 and 1870. Through an examination of materials used in samplers, stitching methods, thematic content, and artistic development and license, the exhibit will also discuss how the needlework affected gender, socioeconomics, education, family, and community roles.

Lectures, demonstrations, and “sit and stitch” lessons by master craftspeople from the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Embroidery Guild of America will add value and perspective to the samplers and embroideries on display in the Kemerer Museum. Events will be held throughout the fall.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall – Through November 10

See how mirrors have reflected changing tastes and styles in decorative arts. From miniature mirrors that adorn our dollhouse walls, to magnificent floor-to-ceiling looking glasses, this exhibit encourages guests to discover how mirrors “reflect” changing tastes and styles in decorative arts. The exhibit will feature a very unique Asian mirror that was given to a local dressmaker, Eugene Barnako as payment by the Pomp sisters of Easton.  The sisters fell on hard times and used the mirror as payment for services.  The mirror represents traditional French Rococo Revival elements while incorporating exotic Asian elements with the dragons and male bust featured at the top.  The mirror dates between 1860-1890. 

Welcome Home: The Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collections – Through Jan. 4, 2014

With the renovations complete, more than 40 buildings and 5,500 dollhouse pieces move home to the Kemerer Museum. The collection, which features dollhouses from every decade between 1830 and 1930, will be on permanent display for the first time since its acquisition in 2007. We invite you to welcome the dollhouses, specifically the English townhouse and French villa, Mystery House, Baltimore row house, and Livingston House, for the first time. This exhibit is the first of a series which will highlight pieces from the Elizabeth Johnston Prime Dollhouse and Toy Collection.  Visitors will see the Thorndike Mansion, an original creation representing a Boston home, the largest dollhouse in size in the collection, standing more than six feet tall.  Additionally, guests will see the youngest dollhouse that was manufactured in 1935 by A. Schoenhut Company of Philadelphia.  The simple yellow colonial revival features five rooms and attractive flower boxes outside the curtained windows.

Local Artist Spotlight: Sandra Corpora – Through Jan. 5, 2014

To recognize and honor artists who are continuing the decorative art traditions so revered in the Kemerer Museum, Historic Bethlehem will spotlight various local artists throughout the year. Sandra Corpora, an award-winning artist who studied with Nelson Shanks, will be the first featured artist. She paints all subjects, including figurative, still life, and landscape.

Monthly programming

Create festive centerpieces, learn about how to create the look of an antique mirror, learn about embroidery, and more at our new Style and Design workshops, programs designed for guests interested in decorative arts who want to improve or learn a design  skill. Workshops are held throughout the year and are a great, hands-on way to experience decorative arts history. The first demonstration, “Reflections from the Past” will be held on October 27.

Special winter workshop: Through classes led by members of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Embroiderers’ Guild of America, guests to our special three-part Style and Design workshop will learn the basic of stitching and embroidery from the experts. Named Stitching 101, workshops will be held on Thursday evenings beginning January 16.

For our youngest visitors, Kemerer Museum will host Dolly and Me, a new program designed to optimize a child’s creative expression and cognitive abilities through activities and play that align with current museum exhibits and the child’s favorite doll from our Once Upon A Treehouse collection.   Children ages pre-K through first grade will learn to recognize and name a variety of art forms including photographs, painting, and sculpture in the Kemerer Museum collections, while improving their language, math, social, and of course, art skills. Programs will be held on the fourth Saturday of the month beginning on September 28.

The Hunt for History Club, which is made possible by the generous support of Helen and Maurice Jones Fund, returns to its original home in the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts. All events, which are aligned with current exhibits and objects on display at the Kemerer Museum, are hosted on the first Saturday of the month from 12pm to 4pm. Upcoming activities will focus on embroidery, photography, and holiday ornaments.

To support continued renovation and preservation efforts, and for a complete listing of events, exhibits, and programs at the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, please visit or call 1-800-360-TOUR.

Historic Bethlehem Museums and Sites is a non-profit institution that brings to life three centuries of American history.  Historic Bethlehem tells the story of a small town of great influence, home to some of our nation’s earliest settlers, America’s first municipal water pumping system, and one of the world’s greatest industrial companies.  Historic Bethlehem is located in Eastern Pennsylvania, only a 1.5 hour drive from Philadelphia to the North and 2 hours west of New York City.  Historic Bethlehem is an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and a National Historic Landmark district. For more information please call 610-691-6055 or visit

Contact: LoriAnn Wukitsch, Managing Director

gro.mehelhtebcirotsihnull@hcstikuwl, 610-882-0450 ext. 16


Date: August 14, 2013



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