Amassed and Up-ended: Decoding the Legacy of Stuff

tree fungus carved by Rowland Evans Robinson

With objects, artworks and documents representing four generations of the Robinson family who lived at Rokeby from 1793 to 1961, Amassed and Up-ended explores the ways in which what we save over a lifetime gives voice to some of our stories and silences others. The exhibit features Robinson family paintings, heirlooms, and items used in everyday life that are usually spread throughout the densely furnished historic home that is central to Rokeby Museum. Curated and re-arranged in a gallery setting, what do these items tell us about this family of artists, farmers and abolitionists? Some objects inform us. Do others keep their secrets or even lead us astray? What of your life is likely to be saved, and what will it tell of you?

hair clipping from Jemima Robinson

What happens when four generations of one family live out their lives in the same house? Lots of things happen, of course, including the accumulation of a lot of stuff. 

In the case of Rokeby Museum, from 1793 to 1961 four generations of the Robinson family lived in the historic home that is now one of the center pieces of this National Historic Landmark designated for its well-documented Underground Railroad history. 

anna stevens robinson

“In the end,” says Museum director Catherine Brooks, “we hope the exhibit gives our visitors the opportunity to think about how what we save over a lifetime gives voice to our stories.  Twenty-first century America offers a seemingly endless array of things to surround ourselves with. Yet much of that accumulation ends up in yard sales. What really matters, and what is worth saving?”

The Museum’s 2019 special exhibit, opening July 14 and running through October 27, features a unique gallery exhibition inviting visitors to meet each generation of this remarkable family of farmers, abolitionists, artists, writers and home-makers.


The exhibit opens Sunday, July 14, with two special programs. 

At 2:00 exhibit curators Jane Williamson, Steve Wetherby, and Catherine Brooks will discuss the many levels of curation at play in Amassed & Up-ended — from the Robinson family’s effort to preserve their history, to early caretakers of Robinson memory, to present-day choices of what to exhibit and how.

At 3:00 p.m. authors Elizabeth Dow and Lucinda Cockerel will provide answers to the question: when someone dies or it’s time to move — or just clean out the attic, garage, or basement – what papers and other things should we save for the sake of history and what can we safely toss?