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The Collections at Montpelier

Five Collections - One Montpelier

The Collections Department oversees the preservation and maintenance of the decorative and fine art objects at Montpelier.  Like other museums, we have our own way of keeping track of (or “cataloging”) our objects.  There is a general uniformity to cataloging as most institutions follow the standards placed by the American Alliance of Museums.  Within those guidelines, each museum has found a way that works best for it.

The Permanent Collection

The Permanent Collection at Montpelier is the largest of our five Collections. This grouping includes objects that have Madison provenance, that is, the ownership line can be traced directly to the Madison family. The side table, seen in the photo to the right, likely came from James Madison’s childhood home, Mount Pleasant. Other objects in this collection include those purchased by the Montpelier Foundation. Objects in the Permanent Collection receive an accession number for cataloging that begins with “MF” for Montpelier Foundation.

The Study Collection

The Study Collection incorporates objects that are used as exhibition or display pieces. These objects can be modern made reproductions of era-appropriate pieces or contemporary objects that relate to an exhibition. The notebooks seen to the right are modern reproductions. They are displayed to add to the interpretation of a room when era-appropriate objects may not be available. Another example of a Study Collection object is Polly the Parrot’s perch. The perch is a modern reproduction of an 18th-century bird stand.

The National Trust Collection

The National Trust Collection is comprised of objects that were acquired before the existence of The Montpelier Foundation (TMF). They are technically owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation but are on long-term loan to us. However, these objects are not considered loans because, the National Trust, along with TMF, is a co-steward of Montpelier as a site and as such, these objects have their own collection.


The Loan Collection

Objects on loan to the Montpelier Foundation are in our care for a set period of time. This can range from a few months to several years. Loaned objects come from private collectors or other institutions and may be used to furnish rooms or be displayed in a special exhibition. Loans accepted by the Montpelier Foundation support the mission and interpretation of Montpelier.


The Prop Collection

Our Prop Collection are objects intended to be handled and used by guests. Props in our outdoor exhibit spaces are subjected to weather and hands-on use. If these objects are ruined or destroyed, they can be more easily replaced. When you visit the South Yard at Montpelier, the furnished quarters are comprised of Prop and Study Collection objects.