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5 Questions with European Specialist Emily Stegner

Emily Stegner joined Skinner in 2021 as a European Furniture & Decorative Arts specialist, focusing on Fine Silver. She is responsible for cataloging, researching, and marketing a diverse array of objects for the European department. Before joining Skinner, Emily worked in Sicily as a Finds Specialist for the American Excavations at Morgantina: Contrada Agnese Project. She also had the pleasure of cataloging Historic Beverly’s archaeological collection to make it usable for research. Beyond archaeological work, Emily has held roles in a number of Massachusetts museums, including the Peabody Essex Museum, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Museum of Russian Icons.

Emily earned a BA from Kenyon College in Classics and English and an MA in Museum Studies from University College London’s Institute of Archaeology. Studying objects to reveal stories about people from the past underscores much of her work thus far. Her particular areas of interest include Greek and Roman archaeology, Russian icons and folk art, and the interpretation of material culture more generally. She especially enjoys travel as a way to learn about people and their culture from the source. When unable to travel, Emily finds books to be the next best thing.

You’re new to auctions. How did you get your start?

I’ve had a short but winding career path. I have a BA degree in Creative Writing and Classics, on-site training in archaeology, and a recent MA in Museum Studies. I’ve worked in different museums around Massachusetts, including the Peabody Essex Museum, Historic Beverly, and the Museum of Russian Icons. I’m happy to be at Skinner where I can work closely with objects every day.

What is a little-known fact about your field?

As an archaeologist, I often get asked about dinosaur bones (that’s paleontology!) or discovering treasure like Indiana Jones. In my experience, there’s a lot more treasure to be found through auction houses than through archaeology. If you think about it, most archaeological objects are basically trash—they’re literally discarded items from earlier cultures. Plus, the overwhelming majority of archaeological finds are mundane artifacts like shards of pottery, iron nails, and unidentifiable bits and bobs.

Is there an area that you are especially passionate about?

Getting other people curious and excited about objects and material culture! I hope people feel the same curiosity and wonder I do when learning something new by encountering something old. I was first drawn to museum work by the ‘behind-the-scenes’ experience of handling and researching material culture. Objects are arguably the best window we have into the past because they are unbiased, unlike people!

What books are you reading?

I’ve been working my way through Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which is about two magicians during the Napoleonic Wars who are trying to revive English magic. It’s been especially fun catching mentions of Wedgwood or silver tea sets and cutlery throughout the novel, since those are items my department works with.

Now that museums are reopening what is on your list to visit?

Too many! I’m keen to get to Philadelphia to see the UPenn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I think they are one of the best archaeological museums in the country. I went in 2019, but many areas were closed because they were doing a massive renovation the African and Central American Galleries, as well as moving their sphinx. It looks amazing and I would love to see it in person.

Get in touch with Emily to discuss buying or consigning European antiques at Skinner: european@skinnerinc.com or 508.970.3203.

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