Manor House Collections Inventory

Summary

Imagine the challenges of jumping fences atop a horse in a side saddle with just one stirrup, wearing long skirts, a starched blouse, and a jacket over a tightly fitted corset while balancing a veiled top hat and communicating with your mount via an antler-tipped crop, which, according to its stamped hallmark, was supplied by "Maker to the Queen" (Victoria, we presume).

These Sylvester Manor women (and their horses) were athletes! Of course, they were supported by staff whose names and stories are a bit harder — but not impossible — to tease out of the records. Comparatively, our tasks in inventorying what they left behind are straightforward: open the packages containing these treasured heirlooms, unwrap them from crinkly yellowed tissue, note their details in our state-of-the-art inventory software, and freshly pack them for long-term storage. Then, repeat the process several hundred times until everything in the house is accounted for.

In the coming months, we'll continue to share exclusive stories with our Capital Campaign donors about some of the treasures we encounter in this inventory project, supported in part by the Leon Levy Foundation. Data collection will also serve our Archive & Research Center Feasibility Study, generously sponsored by the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Foundation.

The Capital Campaign’s immediate aims are rehabilitating the Manor House exterior and developing the future History & Heritage Center in the newer portion. Your contributions are instrumental in achieving this mission. However, our broader renewal goals include the ongoing care of the Manor House collections, which Eben Ostby generously gifted this spring. 

Over the past 10 years, we’ve gotten to know the collections, focusing first on invaluable primary sources like letters, diaries, ledgers, photographs, and more that tell stories of the people who lived and worked at Sylvester Manor. Having created institutional order around this archive, we’ve turned to the thousands of household objects amassed through generations of occupancy. 

With the support of the Leon Levy Foundation and other donors, we’ve begun a complete inventory, identifying and cataloging each item, creating paper records, and logging details using state-of-the-art software. This data collection will also serve our Archive & Research Center Feasibility Study, generously sponsored by the Robert A. and Elizabeth R. Jeffe Foundation.

If it sounds challenging, the hardest part is staying on task, as it’s easy to get lost exploring the fascinating items we’re re-discovering. Find a Victorian riding crop, remember a photo in NYU’s Sylvester Manor archive, and you’re off!

Imagine the challenges of jumping fences atop a horse in a side saddle with just one stirrup, wearing long skirts, a starched blouse, and a jacket over a tightly fitted corset while balancing a veiled hat on your updo and communicating with your mount via an antler-tipped crop, which, according to its stamped hallmark, was supplied by “Ashford: Maker to the Queen (Victoria, we presume). 

These Sylvester Manor women (and their horses) were athletes! Of course, they were attended to by individuals whose names and stories are harder to tease out of the records. Comparatively, our tasks in inventorying what they left behind are straightforward: open the packages containing treasured heirlooms, unwrap them from crinkly yellowed tissue, note their details, and freshly pack them for long-term storage. Then, repeat several hundred times until we account for everything in the house.

In future editions, we’ll share more exclusive peeks at some of the treasures we encounter.  

Antler Riding Crop
Side Saddle Rider
Screenshot

From the new inventory software, an image of an Antler Handled Riding Crop with the hallmark “Ashford: Maker to the Queen,”  and, in a tintype image, Cornelia Felton Horsford poses side-saddle in front of the Manor House, credit Sylvester Manor Archive, Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University Libraries

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