Open Call: Winterthur provides virtual and outdoors havens during pandemic
Editor's note: Open Call is a new column in which we ask arts and cultural leaders to share their perspectives on emerging from the COVID-19 crisis and welcoming back audiences.
When the State of Delaware locked down for the COVID-19 pandemic and Winterthur closed its gates to the public, our team deftly pivoted to online platforms to reach, reassure and connect with our thousands of members and regular visitors.
We have spent the past year welcoming visitors to explore the collections and gardens through virtual tours with our expert curators and horticulturists. Our large conferences, usually attended by scholars and lifelong learners from the eastern seaboard, have attracted participants from across the nation and around the globe.
It has been thrilling to share Winterthur’s rich and varied stories with those on continents we had never before reached, and we are grateful to have been able to provide enlightening and inspiring diversion for learners of all ages and types who are stuck at home.
While our virtual programming has received a great deal of attention, Winterthur’s 1,000 acres of open space have been an absolute haven for those in our area to escape the tedium within a safe environment.
The 60 acres of stunning natural garden have long been a big draw for visitors, but now our new walking and hiking trails are becoming popular for those who wish to explore woodlands and meadows of a landscape that has changed little over the past 200 years.
Few people know that they can wander and explore the entire estate and can bring a picnic to enjoy while pausing to take in the views and vistas. The hundreds of acres include natural habitats galore, and we are thrilled to see birdwatchers, artists and families taking advantage of the opportunity to study, paint, and play on the grounds.
The outdoors is enjoyed year-round at Winterthur, but the garden is at its peak in the spring. The four-acre Azalea Woods is glorious in May, which makes strolling there a Mother’s Day tradition.
We are delighted that this year — unlike 2020 — there are no restrictions and everyone can enjoy the gardens in person, as well as our museum galleries.
Our new exhibition, "Outside In: Nature-inspired Design at Winterthur,'' brings to light the influence of the natural world on design, and particularly on Henry Francis du Pont, who crafted Winterthur’s interiors to connect with the outdoor views from the house’s many windows.
Mr. du Pont also brought his expertise in American arts and design to the White House during the Kennedy administration, when he led the redesign with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
We look forward to celebrating that collaboration in 2022, when we will unveil a special exhibition, “Jacqueline Kennedy and Henry Francis du Pont: From Winterthur to the White House.”
It’s a wonderful reminder of the connections that continue — especially now — between Delaware and the White House.
Carol B. Cadou is the Charles F. Montgomery director and CEO of Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library