Max Spegiel submitted this item about a lecture at the Evergreen House by Susan Tripp, who was the curator when Johns Hopkins University sold the Garrett coin collection.
Last Wednesday (April 28), I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Susan Tripp, the former curator of the Evergreen House, once the home of the Garrett family and their remarkable numismatic collection. Her presentation, “Discovering Evergreen,” was a part of The House Beautiful Lecture Series held at Evergreen in the spring.
The main part of the lecture focused on her interesting (and sometimes amusing) experiences as curator of Evergreen and the $4.3 million restoration of the building that she oversaw. Although I went primarily to see what she had to say about the numismatic collection, I enjoyed hearing her stories about the house, the collections, the Garretts, and other personalities.
Susan told how she came to Evergreen in 1974, succeeding the previous curator Sally Freeman, who had retired. Her first goal was to organize and catalog the collection so that the Johns Hopkins University and the Evergreen House Foundation could ultimately determine what to sell. The house was filled with objects; not just from the Garrett collections, but from the entire university. She was guided by Elizabeth “Libby” Baer, who had been John Work Garrett’s librarian since 1936 and was now the Director of the Evergreen House Trust.
Sally Freeman began working with the coin collection in 1955 and added notations to the Garretts’ index card filing system. John Work Garrett’s library was apparently the center of the household, and he often entertained and ate his meals there. The ingenious coin dumbwaiter that Garrett had installed to bring coins up from his vault meant that he would never have to leave his favorite room in the house.
Susan told an amusing anecdote about how, while she was preparing the numismatic collection for sale, she would often work downstairs in the vault beneath the library. When a tour would come by the security guard would yell down to alert her and then shut the hatch. After the tour had finished the security guard would open the vault and check on her. This worked fine until one time they closed the hatch without realizing she was down there and eventually went looking for her when she was not at lunch. (She was fine.)
Susan spoke only briefly about the sale of the Garrett numismatic collection. Sotheby’s had been providing significant help to the Evergreen House because they knew that the Foundation and University were interested to sell. Apparently they were a bit annoyed that the first Garrett coins went to Stack’s in March 1976. (Sotheby’s was still given a Picasso, among other items, to sell.) The bulk of the collection, however, would eventually be sold by Bowers and Ruddy and Numismatic Fine Arts.
Overall, Susan Tripp’s lecture at the Evergreen House was enlightening and it was great to hear the perspective of a former curator. She has an abundance of interesting stories and is highly knowledgeable. While the Garretts have already been extensively studied (such as Dave Bowers’ book on their coin collection), the behind-the-scenes part is far more obscure. Someday it would be nice to look through all of the Johns Hopkins University archives related to the numismatic collection.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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