Treasure: Series helps antique lovers build collections

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

‘Knowledge is power,” reads words carved over the doorway at downtown’s Detroit Public Library. That’s especially true when it comes to antiques, when knowing how to “read” an item can mean the difference between a valuable original and a worthless reproduction.

Michigan’s long winters can be an opportune time to study up for the antiquing season ahead. The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores has a new program designed to spotlight its impressive collection and help area collectors build their own. The new monthly Collectors’ Series, which kicks off Saturday with “Patio Chic: Exploring Vintage Garden Furnishings” will also include “Rug Collections: Get Swept Away” (March 23) and “For Real or Forgery: Spotting Authentic Antiques” (April 13). Ann Loshaw, vice president of visitor experience and education, filled us in on what treasure-hunters can expect.

Q: Why did you decide to offer this?

A: Ford House has an amazing and vast collection. As it’s impossible to learn about everything on a regular tour, this program series provides a great opportunity to learn much more about specific aspects of our collection, and to get up close with some of our collection pieces as well as begin to share some general knowledge about collecting with our patrons.

Q: What kind of questions about the collection are the most common?

A: During our house tours, the most common questions usually have to do with where are the pieces from originally, how old they are and why were some pieces (such as the paneling or other architectural details) brought here rather than being created here.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with the series?

A: We hope to share more about the patronage of the arts of Edsel and Eleanor and how that is reflected in the collections of the estate, to provide program participants with a more in-depth, up-close look into the collections at Ford House along with providing some practical tips for their own collections and collecting. This is the type of experience and information that you would not be able to get during a regular museum visit. In addition, we hope for our guests to understand the process that a collecting institution goes through in selection and care of its objects.

Q: What did the Fords actively collect?

A: Eleanor and Edsel Ford were close to William R. Valentiner, director of the Detroit Institute of Arts from 1924-1945, who mentored their appreciation for the arts. Making scouting trips abroad and purchasing items through dealers, they acquired an impressive collection: paintings from old masters such as “Annunciatory Angel” by Fra Angelico, “The Postman Roulin” by van Gogh, and “Bouilloire et Fruits” and “Mont Sainte-Victoire” by Cezanne; works by Matisse, Renoir, and Chagall; as well as 17th-century European furniture, ancient Chinese ceramics, medieval ivories, Islamic pottery and African art.

Q. What do you hope visitors will take away from the house and the program?

A: We hope to that program participants take away a new appreciation for the collections at Ford House, as well as some practical tips for their own collecting efforts. This might include where to find items or how to care for or repair them.

For pricing information or to register, visit