It was painstaking work that continued for months. The treated
mittens soon will make their return trip to New York City. But the work
already is drawing high praise from Flint, who received photos from
Richeson, now completing her third year of study and final internship at
the Museum of Modern Art.
“They look absolutely incredible,” Flint said.
Seeing the treated mittens reminded Flint of an encounter she had
during a celebration of Henson’s 150th birthday. She brought the mittens
to that event, she said, and one of Henson’s great grandsons picked one
of them up. What he said has stuck with her.
“I feel like I’m shaking hands with my great grandfather,” he said.
The mittens have been on display many times — on loan to national
buildings and museums. During one of those trips last year — to the
Fashion Institute of Technology — the mittens and Henson’s full
expedition suit were reunited for the first time, Flint said.
The Explorers Club also has a sledge from the Peary-Henson expedition
hanging from a ceiling, she said, and about 60 lantern slides. Other
objects and photographs from the Club’s collections have also been
treated by students in the Winterthur/UD program.
“Over the past three years our graduate and undergraduate students
have worked with collection materials from the Explorers Club that have
included, in addition to the Henson mittens, 10 boxes of 19th century
albumen prints documenting the Arctic Age of Exploration and 20th
century prints and albums that record discovery,” Norris said. “These
challenging preservation projects allow our students to analyze and
preserve images and artifacts that celebrate humanity, discovery and our
global connection. Our students have recommended strategies for
collections care as well. For me personally, this work is a tribute to
my beloved brother, Peter, who — as an Explorer — truly treasured the
club’s remarkable collections and raved about their significance and
The work has been of extraordinary benefit to the Explorers Club, Flint said.
“I can’t stress enough how grateful we are to Winterthur and the
University of Delaware for taking on so many projects and giving me that
peace of mind,” she said. “The program is so strong and the people are
so professional and know what they’re doing. They have transformed this
Henson and the University of Delaware
In 2009, Henson’s great-great-great-grand niece, Leila Savoy Andrade,
accepted the American Geographical Society’s Cullum Geographical Medal
on his behalf at a ceremony at the University of Delaware,
part of UD’s William S. Carlson International Polar Year Events. The
Cullum Medal is the AGS’s oldest, established in 1896, and recognizes
“those who distinguish themselves by geographical discoveries or in the
advancement of geographical science.”
In the summer of 2018, students from historically black colleges and
universities (HBCUs) visited UD to learn principles of art conservation.
Five of them spent two weeks with UD’s Joyce Hill Stoner, Rosenberg
Professor in Material Culture, working on materials owned by Tuskegee
University, including a diorama depicting the expedition Henson and Peary made to the North Pole.
Article by Beth Miller; photos by Evan Krape and courtesy of Bradley Robinson. The historic photos of Matthew Henson are used by permission of www.matthewhenson.com, a free public service provided by Bradley Robinson.