Cummer Resources

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. A permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works of art on a riverfront campus offers more than 95,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities.

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Search results for ninah cummer

Eartha White and Ninah Cummer: Connecting with Community

What does philanthropy look like? Ninah M. H. Cummer, the patron of The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, was a wealthy white woman with a passion for art, who sought to extend her love of beautiful surroundings from her private garden to the parks and public spaces of Jacksonville.  Eartha M. M. White, a black woman of modest means, established — through sheer force of will — a wide range of social support agencies for the city’s homeless, poor, aged, and neglected.

Through photographs, letters, and ephemera, this exhibition celebrates two strong women who helped shape Jacksonville in the twentieth century, and whose legacies remain vibrant today.  Materials for the exhibition were sourced from the Clara White Mission; the Jacksonville Historical Society; the University of North Florida Thomas Carpenter Library, Special Collections; and the Archives of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens.

Eartha White and Ninah Cummer: Connecting with Community will be on display in the Milner Gallery from November 27, 2012 through April 14, 2013.

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1958 The Death of Ninah Cummer

“When you list the causes for which Mrs. Cummer provided leadership – parks, playgrounds, gardening, the arts – you realize that these comprise the things which make life in a city worth living. Her efforts for esthetic and cultural growth are memorialized in the city we see around us today, and will be even more evident in the greater and more beautiful city of tomorrow toward which we are evolving.”

“Mrs. Cummer Gave Us A Legacy of Beauty,” Florida Times Union, May 27, 1958.

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The Ninah Cummer Project: An Interview with Barbara Colaciello

In Sustaining Beauty: Reflections from the Memoirs of Ninah May Holden Cummer, The Cummer Museum’s founder comes to life in this one-woman play created in partnership with Jacksonville Beach theater Players By the Sea.  With assistance from museum Curatorial staff, the piece is written and performed by Barbara Colaciello, who spent a year in our archives researching Ninah.  Learn more about this generous, forward-thinking woman on April 5 at 7pm.  Admission to the play is just $5.

There are also performances April 1 & 2, 2011 at 8:00pm at Player By the Sea.
Tickets $20.00 / $17.00 Students, Seniors & Military

Kristen:  Did you enjoy your experience learning about Mrs. Cummer’s life?

Barbara:  Absolutely.  I  have always been fascinated by the events that occurred around the turn of the century.  Ninah and Arthur Cummer came to live in Jacksonville in 1897.  Being able to read through her personal journals was such a privilege and working with the Cummer staff was a huge help and fun.

Kristen:  Of all the things you learned about her, what did you find most surprising?  Most interesting?

Barbara:  Ninah had a very poetic way of expressing herself.  She also was extremely strong and resilient in public and these qualities are evident in her private life as well.  But, I really prefer people come to the play to find out the most interesting things about her.

Kristen:  What was your plan when you started this process, and has it turned out the way you intended?

Barbara:  My plan was to look for things that spoke to me and to extract those facts and passages of dialogue.  I very early on found the perfect metaphor for her life in her first botany talk to the Garden Club.  Those 10 sentences had a huge impact on the theme of the play.

In the writing of the piece, I now see it more as an oral history and less like a traditional one person play.  And until it is witnessed by an audience I won’t know if it turned out the way I intended.  I do believe that I have been touched by Ninah and thus the audience will be touched as well.

Kristen:  If Mrs. Cummer were alive today, how do you think she would feel about the way her legacy has been handled?

Barbara:  I believe that she would be ecstatic with the growth of the museum and how it is one of Jacksonville’s most important cultural centers.  As far as how she is represented in Sustaining Beauty I believe that she would understand how I weaved her words and feelings into a dramatic poetic piece with sensitivity and heart.

Kristen:  How do you think she would feel about the way the city has grown and changed?

Barbara:  She had a way of looking at the positive and she would be thrilled by Riverside’s energy, the support the community gives to the Cummer Museum, the amount of children who visit the museum, and love that we have our own football team.

She did not like SIGNAGE so that would not thrill her.  And I know that she would be upset with what is happening with the arts in education.  She talks about how other cultures have a respect  for art and a reverence for trees.

I also believe that since Mrs. Cummer had a scientific mind and researched everything herself she would be a supporter of local farmers and concerned about the lack of testing that has been done on genetically modified food.

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The Cummer Shop and VIELÄ Jewelry – The Boxwood Collection

To honor and preserve the historic plants, VIELÄ Jewelry, in collaboration with the Cummer Shop, created a custom jewelry collection. The image on the jewelry and the ornament is created with a real impression of boxwood cut from the Cummer Gardens. The parentage of this specimen dates to 1931, planted in Ninah Cummer’s time, and cannot be readily purchased. Boxwoods are used throughout the Italian, English, and Olmsted Gardens, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Boxwood Collection is available exclusively at the Cummer Shop. For further information, contact the Shop at 904.899.6035.

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Painting Conservation Efforts at the Cummer Museum

As part of the Museum’s commitment to preserve the permanent collection for future generations, conservation needs are assessed annually. Thanks to a donation from Jim and Joan Van Vleck, the Museum was able to undertake an assessment of the painting collection, treatment of four works, as well as the restoration of the English Garden’s center mosaic fountain by the the Museum’s object conservator.

While at the Museum in May, Rustin Levenson, the painting conservator, did a variety of work including evaluating environmental controls, measuring light levels, assessing paintings in the Museum’s collection, and treating those requiring immediate attention. This type of detailed assessment is vital to the Museum as it plans for the future, prioritizes funding, and communicates with donors.

One of the paintings that was restored Levenson in her studio. Paul King (American, 1867 – 1947), Along the Strand, c. 1900, oil on canvas, 32 x 40 in., Bequest of Ninah M. H. Cummer, C.0.160.1.

Along the Strand, the first painting acquired by Mrs. Cummer, was transported to Levenson’s studio for treatment to address its discolored varnish, surface grime, and abrasions. The Kitchen at Mount Vernon had an area of lifting paint and evidence of cleaning damage to original glazes from a previous restoration, both of which were worked on during its treatment.

Eastman Johnson (American, 1824 – 1906), The Kitchen at Mount Vernon, c. 1857, oil on panel, 12 ½ x 20 ½ in., Bequest of Ninah M. H. Cummer, C.0.117.1.


Carl Ruthart (German, 1630 – 1703), David Called from His Flock, c. 1672, oil on canvas, 38 ½ x 65 in., Museum Purchase, AP.1962.2.1.

David Called from His Flock required extensive treatment due to paint chipping and loss. In addition, this painting’s frame dates to the early 1800s and will be restored to its original beauty by a frame restorer, who was also involved in the conservation repairs. A fourth painting, Robert Henri’s Guide to Croaghan (Brien O’Malley), was determined to need further conservation, and many more works were identified as candidates for future conservation projects.

Levenson didn’t just carry out the act of conservation; she also spoke to the Board of Trustees about what conservation is and why it is important. Conservation is, and always will be, an ongoing project. There will always be a list of pieces that would benefit from treatment, which is only made possible by generous donors.

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Arthur and Ninah: A Valentine’s Day Post


“…and it means every thing in the world to me—because I love you more and more and I am looking forward to peaceful happy days in our lovely home and garden—With a heart full of devotion—Yours as always,


Arthur Cummer met Ninah May Holden at the University of Michigan. Ninah received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1895, and two years later, Arthur and Ninah were married in Michigan City, Indiana. After their marriage, they moved to Jacksonville. Although Ninah valued her independence and individuality, it is clear from this letter—written by Ninah to Arthur—that she loved him deeply.

In 1903, Arthur and Ninah built a large Tudor-style house, with a sweeping drive and immaculate gardens. The first formal garden—an English style—was added in 1910 and was replanted with hundreds of beautiful azaleas. In 1931, the Italian Gardens were created, patterned after the famous garden of the Villa Gamberaia. Towering above it all was a majestic 175-200 year-old live oak tree, with a canopy spanning 150 feet. This oak tree is now known as the Cummer Oak.

This Valentine’s Day, bring your sweetheart to the Cummer Museum to enjoy a romantic stroll through the gardens, walk hand-in-hand along the St. Johns River, or sit under the shade of the Cummer Oak. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to feel the love that Arthur and Ninah felt for each other.

The Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, so you’ll be able to spend all day exploring the campus. Don’t forget to stop by the Cummer Shop to buy something beautiful for your beloved.


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