Short story for Universitas magazine, Saint Louis University, Fall 2005
SLU's museums shimmer thanks to a generous gift of glass.
By Allison Babka
Photo by Paul Sableman via Flickr Creative Commons
In May, Saint Louis University received an exquisite glass collection worthy of the world’s finest museums.
Eleanor Turshin of Ladue, Mo., had bequeathed the collection to SLU. She died in 2004. Catherine Gidlow, Turshin’s daughter, signed the large collection over to the University according to her mother’s wishes.
“Eleanor had given previously to the University,” said Petruta Lipan, curator for the SLU museums and galleries. “We estimate that the new gifts bring the entire collection to nearly 2,000 pieces.”
Turshin had operated a jewelry factory that dealt mostly in precious metals. While traveling extensively to sell her products, she became interested in antiques and intrigued with glass. Upon walking into an antique shop one day, she spied a purple Steuben Cluthra vase and purchased the rare piece for just $40.
Turshin then began researching colored Steuben glass as well as glass in general. She continued to buy additional pieces that she knew would contribute to the value of her collection, which eventually included the finest American and European art nouveau and art deco glass. Lipan said that the collection is quite valuable.
“Glass is becoming more and more collectible, so the values rise each year,” Lipan said. “The Saint Louis University Museum of Art features many top glass artists, such as Dale Chihuly, who is considered the most important glass artist at this time.”
The Eleanor Turshin glass collection showcases the works of premier glass artisans and manufacturers, such as Steuben, Tiffany, Imperial, Fenton, Loetz and more. The permanent collection features colored vases, lamps and bowls. In SLUMA, the collection is housed on the second floor and showcases the modern, contemporary pieces. In Samuel Cupples House, visitors will find Turshin’s more traditional glass throughout the mansion.
“Eleanor wanted her collection to serve as a starting point for people to be inspired to make the collection bigger and better,” Lipan said. “There is plenty of room to grow, and we appreciate each gift.
“This is a collection of national significance,” Lipan continued. “Not many university museums have collections like this. It puts us on a new level.”
Pieces of the Eleanor Turshin glass collection are on display at both SLUMA and Samuel Cupples House. SLUMA is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. TuesdaySunday. Cupples House is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. For more information, call Cupples House at (314) 977-3570.