Most of the pieces in the exhibition come from Amherst. Archives and Special Collections in Frost Library holds the largest collection of Orra White Hitchcock’s work. Indeed, while her work may be unfamiliar to New York’s museum goers, she’s well-known to Amherst.
In 2011, the Mead Art Museum held a special exhibition devoted to Hitchcock’s work, describing her as “the principal female il- lustrator of her generation in the UnitedStates,”someone who “deserves to be better known.” The curators of the Mead exhibition were Robert L. Herbert, professor emeritus at Mount Holyoke, and Daria D’Arienzo, head archivist at Amherst (now retired). Their re- search earns special recognition in the New York exhibition.
While her work may be unfamiliar to New York museumgoers, she’s well-known to Amherst.
In summer 2015, Archives and Special Collections had four digital humanities interns conduct research on the College’s Ed- ward and Orra White Hitchcock Collection, which, in addition to the artwork, includes letters and manuscripts. The illustrations and charts “allow us a look at how science was taught at Amherst in the mid-19th century,” wrote Chris Barber, an archivist at the College, and also offer “a glimpse of the geological landscape of the Pioneer Valley during her time.”
Most who have reviewed the Folk Art Museum exhibition have emphasized that the works are un- signed. The artist’s husband noted it too, in his 1863 memoirs, saying that his wife created her illustrations “without the slightest pecuniary compensation, or the hope of artistic reputation.” Orra died that same year, Edward the next. As Smithsonian noted, they’re buried together in Amherst, at West Cemetery, where his gravestone remembers a “leader in science,” while hers remembers the “wife of Edward Hitchcock.” Now, at the American Folk Art Museum, and on an ongoing basis in the Amherst College Archives, she’s remembered for far more.