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American Art

Paintings, furniture, folk art, needlework, toys and costumes represent over 300 years of New England culture. Each object reveals the values of the communities that shaped this region of the early United States and ultimately informs the design and beauty of the things with which we choose to surround ourselves today. From art we can connect the past to the present to understand the material world around us.

Among more than 1,000 portraits is a likeness of Nathaniel Hawthorne that captures the author's inner spirit with a quality and immediacy that practically invites you to engage in conversation. John Singleton Copley's Portrait of Sarah Erving Waldo, in its original hand-carved frame, conveys the artist's ability to convincingly render details, shimmering fabrics and polished fine woods characteristic of the mid 18th century.

Period furniture - desks and bookcases that feature superb craftsmanship, clean lines and elegant form - illuminates all aspects of society, from the elite to the working class. And PEM's shoe collection, one of the largest in the world, reveals attitudes about clothing, sexuality and beauty.

Explore some highlights from the collection

Each object reveals the values of the communities that shaped this region and ultimately informs the design and beauty of the things with which we choose to surround ourselves today.