Monadnock Center for History and Culture receives two gifts

  • Monadnock Center for History and Culture Executive Director Michelle Stahl announces a donation of $97,500 from the Walter and Dorothy Peterson Trust and the acquisition of the Nora S. Unwin collection at the center's annual meeting Sept. 22. —STAFF PHOTO BY SCOTT MERRILL

  • A self-portrait of Nora S. Unwin —COURTESY PHOTO

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/26/2022 2:41:11 PM
Modified: 9/26/2022 2:40:23 PM

The Monadnock Center for History and Culture has received two gifts that are intended have a lasting impact for the center. 

At the center’s annual meeting Sept. 22, Executive Director Michelle Stahl announced that the center has acquired a $97,500 gift from the Walter and Dorothy Peterson Trust, along with the Nora S. Unwin Collection from New England College.

“I believe this is the largest request [the center] has ever received, and I’m honored,” said Stahl, who has served as the center’s director for the past 24 years. “Walter and Dorothy were very involved when I first came. Walter was on the capital committee and Dorothy was board president. I learned so much from them. They were amazing mentors and I wouldn’t be here without their hard work.”

The Petersons’ donation will support the center’s “forever legacy,” and  will be used to fund future programing, Stahl said.

The artwork was a donation from New England College. In the early 1980s, illustrator and printmaker Nora Unwin left the contents of her Peterborough studio --including more than 500 prints, drawings, paintings and illustrations – to the Sharon Arts Center. After her death in 1982, the Sharon Arts Center dedicated the Unwin Studio to honor her career as an artist and teacher.

The Sharon Arts Center cared for the collection for many years before New England College took ownership in 2019 as part of its merger with the New Hampshire Institute of Art, the parent of the Sharon Arts Center.

“We are delighted to see the Unwin collection find a home in Peterborough, where the artist spent so many productive years,” stated James Murtha, senior vice president of academic alliances at New England College. “Nora wanted her work to inspire the people of her adopted community. Its new home at the Monadnock Center ensures that her work will remain available to interested faculty and students of the college and will also remain a vibrant part of the Monadnock region.”

Nora Spicer Unwin was born in England in 1907 and received her degree from the Royal College of Art. She enjoyed early success as both an illustrator and wood engraver, with her first book illustration published when she was 18. When she was in her 20s, the British Museum acquired two of her early wood engravings for their permanent collection.

In the 1930s, Unwin, who eventually taught at the Sharon Arts Center in the 1960s and 1970s, met American writer Elizabeth Yates in London and the two began a lifelong collaboration. Yates and her husband William McGreal left London on the eve of World War II and settled in Peterborough. Unwin emigrated to the United States in 1946 and joined the McGreals at their Peterborough home, Shieling. In her new country, Unwin continued her work in illustration and wood-engraving and began to experiment with other printmaking techniques and collage. 

The Monadnock Center will launch a retrospective exhibition to showcase the collection in 2023.

“For people who have lived in the region a long time, seeing Nora Unwin’s work will be like visiting an old friend,” said Stahl. “I am also excited to introduce a new generation to Unwin and her amazing career. We are honored to be the new caretakers of this important collection.”


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