BGSU obtains Nickerson CollectionWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
The Vincent Douglas Nickerson Collection, which contains more than 300 original sketches of vessels from between 1880 and 1910, was donated to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes (HCGL) at Bowling Green State University.
HCGL archivist Bob Graham said the size and scope of these drawings are highly unusual.
“There is no other collection of Great Lakes maritime artwork of this magnitude in any other public institution,” Graham said.
The drawings, he said, represent the best scale work of vessels from this time period. This is because Nickerson’s clients were connected to various maritime businesses and wanted accurate artwork of their vessels.
Graham said for some of the particular vessels sketched, Nickerson’s drawings provide the only details available. He added there are fewer than 30 completed Nickerson works in public institutions. The Great Lakes Historical Society in Vermilion, Ohio, has between eight and 12 completed works.
Graham said the time period of the sketches is significant because the turn of the century marked the transition from sail and wooden ships to steam and iron and steel vessels. Graham said the collection depicts wooden and steel ships.
“It was an evolution of the U.S. into a modern industrial power. The work represents that and is symbolic to it,” Graham said.
The works were donated to the HCGL by Ellen Drouillard Boruff of Bloomington, Ind. Boruff inherited the collection from her grandfather in the 1990s, Graham said.
Boruff began conducting research of her own on the works and contacted the HCGL for help in identifying ships portrayed in the collection.
Graham and Boruff began exchanging emails and he visited her in Bloomington in 2003.
Eventually, Boruff decided to donate the collection to the HCGL.
“It’s been a long-term process and we’ve been talking about it for over 10 years,” Graham said.
Graham said little is known about Nickerson, who was born and passed away in the Cleveland area and did most of his work there. He added Nickerson did some traveling across the Great Lakes region.
The HCGL is part of the Center for Archival Collections at the BGSU Libraries. According to its website, other collections possessed by the HCGL include works related to shipping, shipbuilding, navigation, maritime law, commercial fishing, shipwrecks, yachting, labor history, popular literature, freshwater ecology, recreation and the history of Great Lakes ports.
Graham said the addition of the Nickerson collection complements the existing collections at the HCGL.
“It gives us a depth that wasn’t there before,” he said in a press release. “To find a body of work from a late 19th century marine artist of this magnitude is really special.”
He said there is still work to be done such as compiling an inventory, reaching out to other maritime museums in the region and performing maintenance work on the drawings.
“We still have some work to do,” Graham said. “We hope to find out more as we progress with our investigation.”