Glass manufacture has historically been an important industry in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley, with hundreds of factories once in place. Today there are only a handful of extant factories. However, there is a widespread interest in collecting glass. In 1967, The Daywood Collection was donated to the Museum. The Daywood , which included early examples of pressed “lacy” period glass manufactured by the Boston Sandwich Company. Today the glass collection is the Museum’s largest, containing more than 4,000 objects, ranging in date from ancient to contemporary.
In the 1970s, the Museum took note of this historically important regional phenomenon and expanded its holdings in early American, mid-Western/Ohio Valley, Art and Studio Glass. The extensive collection of Ohio Valley glass, and examples of American and European art glass, are displayed in an expansive visible storage format that allows approximately 25 percent of this collection to be on view at one time. The mid-Western/Ohio Valley glass collection follows the development of glassmaking throughout this region from the early 18th century to the present. The permanent glass gallery, designed as a study gallery, includes a variety of types and techniques employed in glass manufacture, including mouth-blown, mold-formed pattern glass, pressed pattern and figural glass, as well as decorative techniques such as cut, etched and hand-painted glass. This display presents a rich reference tool for collectors as well as a visual resource for those interested in the beauty of the medium.
Examples on view include glass manufactured by Atterbury, Bakewell, Pears & Co, Bryce Brothers, Gillinder & Sons, George Duncan & Sons, McKee and Brothers, Hobbs Brockunier, Central Glass, Riverside Glass, Northwood Glass, Fostoria Glass, Huntington Glass, and others. Several cases display art glass from the United States and Europe donated by Wilbur E. Myers, a local collector, with many fine examples made by Mt. Washington, Fenton, Libbey, Steven and Williams, New England, Thomas Webb & Sons, Schneider, Gallé, Daum, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Vineland Flint Glass Works, Steuben Glass Works, as well as glass from West Virginia factories such as Dunbar, New Martinsville, Viking, Paden City Glass, Huntington Tumbler, Old Morgantown, Akro Agate, The Pilgrim Glass Corporation, Rainbow Art Glass, Bischoff, and Blenko.
In 1976, to celebrate America’s Bicentennial, the museum was involved in a tri-part project titled New American Glass: Focus West Virginia which placed studio glass artists at work in six West Virginia glass factories. The works created as a result of this fusion of artistic energy and industrial technology became part of the permanent collection. Subsequently the Museum hosted annual invitational exhibitions featuring individual studio glass artists, from 1978 through 1988. Many important works were acquired for the collection including pivotal pieces by studio glass pioneers such as Harvey Littleton, Dominick Labino, Fritz Dreisbach, Joel Philip Myers, Dale Chihuly, Michael Peisner, Toots Zynsky, Ginny Ruffner and many others. The latest addition to our studio glass collection is the large Dale Chihuly tower in The C. Fred Edwards Tropical Plant Conservatory.