Exhibits 2011-Present

Winter 2018 Advent – Works of Ade Bethune

OL of Advent

Our new library display celebrates the on-site works of the first female teacher at Portsmouth, (then known as the Priory), Miss Ade De Bethune, 1914-2002. She is believed to be the longest living monastic oblate. Her liturgical art works include prints, a newspaper masthead for the Catholic Worker done in 1933 which is still used, an advent calendar and gift items for her St. Leo’s shop in Newport, banners for Advent named “Maria Orans with Christ Child” (mounted in our church as seen above), banners of the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy

(mounted in the library), and many woodcuts.

As a crowning achievement, unrelated to art, in 2002 she opened Star of the Sea, an elder friendly housing building which was a refurbished former estate and convent on “the Point” in Newport. She had worked for many years to raise the funding for the project.

She was buried in the Abbey cemetery in 2002.


Winter 2016 Christmas Cards Commissioned by the Monastery and School


Winter 2016

For the holiday display an assortment of professionally produced Portsmouth Abbey Christmas Cards were on display. For many years the Monastery produced a plain card with an appropriate religious or serious literary holiday message (usually done in red or green calligraphy) and with no art work. Later art work was added when the development office began to produce cards with Abbey scenes for the administration and monastery to send much later. These were works from around campus or done by a student or alumnus.


Spring 2016 400th anniversary of death of Shakespeare

April 23, 2016 is the 400th Anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. Father Damian Kearney, ’45, former head of the English Department, has prepared a display of Shakespeare photos, posters, books (including a facsimile of the first folio) and items related to the great bard. Father taught the plays for many years and continues to listen to and watches the various productions with enjoyment. Among the items in the hallway cases are the 1899 theatre program of Hamlet with female Sarah Burnhart playing Hamlet, an original 1919 program of Hamlet and an original 1922 program book from the Harris Theatre with John Barrymore as Hamlet. These are part of a monastery collection from now deceased, Brother Basil Cunningham. At present the library holds over 140 DVDS of Shakespeare’s plays.

The hall display cases held additional three dimensional objects.


Winter 2012-13 Return of early Tin Toys-Caselman loan

The case was once again full of the Christmas toys from the 1920’s and 1930’s in the collection of Tom Casselman. An addition to the display this time was a robot toy from the period in it’s original

Original Winter 2001-2002 Exhibit

​The library has on display a group of toys made for children 75 years ago. The examples are from the collection of Tom Casselman, husband of Abbey Summer Elderhostel art instructor, Izabella Casselman. The toys are all tin stamped, and run with keys, gears and pulleys.

Most were made in the USA, although some are from China, Japan and Russia. They come from the period of 1930-1940, although one is from the period of the First World War and the a few late examples are from the mid-late 1940’s. The skiers, ski, the pirates and animals “walk”, the tanks and airplanes shoot fire by means of a striking flints and the motorcycles and submarines balance to run on metal or early rubber tires.

A jester does black flips. One motorcycle is marked “made in US zone, occupied Germany”. Such would have been the toys of our Portsmouth Priory young men in the early years of the school’s history.


Spring 2012- Return of Fr. Christopher’s Crosses

This Lent, as was done for Lent 10 years ago, we displayed Father Christopher’s (Father W. N. Christopher Davis ’48 ) collection of crosses.

Father W. N. Christopher Davis ’48 created a display for the library case of 35 crosses that he had collected over the years of his priesthood. Among them are crosses from the American southwest (where Father had been a parish priest). Those on display include a silver Mexican Baptismal memento cross in a broken line pattern, (one of a number in Father’s memento crosses given by the family at their infant’s Baptism) and a lovely turquoise and silver cross. The earliest cross in the collection is of special interest to the Abbey community. The Portsmouth Abbey commemorative class cross of 1948 which was commissioned to be sculpted in lieu of a 1948 class ring. It is double sided and depicts symbols and Saints relevant to the school, the raven, St. Benedict and the Blessed Virgin Mary. ​

Also added for this newer display were two belonging to Father Damian Kearney, O.S. B. and the “Portsmouth school cross” (from school letterhead etc.) now sold as a silver or gold necklace in the school bookstore. As described in 2002, “Wood, alabaster, paper, silver, glass, mosaic, cameo and gold crosses are represented. One cross is made of house nails, another of silver tubes, one has a papal portrait and yet another has splinters of wood encased in glass. The artistic forms of the crosses are varied as well, showing a crusaders’ cross, Celtic cross, an Armenian procession cross, a Byzantine cross and Trinity cross.” Added this year was a straw cross and a second reliquary cross, this one once owned by Father Damian’s great uncle, a priest in England in the late 1800s. The mosaic (the first picture below) won in student voting this year, as it did 10 years ago. It is also pictured in the collection in another photograph. Second place was tied between Father Christopher’s 33 Anniversary Cross (large raised center cross made with varied polished woods) and the Irish Blessing Cross shown in the center of the last picture.


Winter 2011-12–Nativities, Crèches, many styles, many materials, same eternal message-salvation

A sample of nativities made from olive wood, glass, metal, stone, and paper were on display for Christmas. Two children’s pop-up books created visual depth. Of special interest was a small silver pin with the nativity.

This exhibit is a compliment to an earlier exhibit Pop-Up Paper Nativities (Winter 2004-2005).

Original winter 2004-2005 exhibit

During December 2004, the exhibit is a display of 30 or so paper nativities loaned from the collection of Father Matthew Powell, O.P. of Providence College.

The collection of displayed in the foyer of the Burden Classroom building and in the school library. Father Matthew wrote the detailed history (below) of pop-up books and paper nativities that accompanies the collection.


Three-dimensional paper nativity scenes originated in Germany and Austria in the early 1800s. They became the Christmas crèches of the poor who could not afford expensive hand carved figures. The perfection of the color printing process made paper nativities inexpensive to produce. The printing of paper nativities spread to Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic) and then to the rest of Europe and North America. During Advent peddlers often went from door to door selling sheets of nativity figures. Some printing companies had as many as 200 different figures available. Color printed figures were the more expensive. Figures printed in black and white were less expensive and needed to be hand colored, which was usually the job of the children.

The development of mass-produced molded nativity figures in plaster and plastic in the twentieth century made the paper nativity scene less popular.


Movable books actually predate the invention of the printing press. The earliest examples are the works of Ramon Llull (c1235-1316) of Majorca, a Catalan mystic and poet whose works contained volvelles or revolving discs, which he used to explain his complex philosophical ideas. First designed for adults, movable books used flaps, gatefolds and volvelles and served as instructional tools as well as instruments.

It wasn’t until the mid-18th century that movable books were designed especially for children. That first book was Harlequinade (1765) by London printer and bookseller Robert Sayer. The industrial revolution brought with it a moneyed, leisure class that indulged its children. In addition color printing was perfected in Germany and the hand labor necessary to assemble the movable parts was cheap.

The latter part of the 19th century was the golden age of pop-ups because of the increase in the number and quality of movable books produced. They were translated into many languages, producing a world-wide audience. German paper engineer, Lothar Meggendorfer, invented the use of a rivet around which a figure could move when a tab was pulled.

The first true “pop-up,” an illustration which jumps up when the page is opened, was invented by S. Louis Giraud and Theodore Brown in 1929 in England. However, the term “pop- up” was not used until the 1930’s when it was copyrighted by Blue Ribbon Press of Chicago.

Few pop-ups were produced during World War II because of the shortage of both paper and labor. In the 1960’s, an English advertising entrepreneur, Waldo Hunt, discovered the work of Czech artist and paper engineer, Vojtech Kubasta (1914-1992). Hunt’s company, Graphics International, introduced Kubasta to the West and began producing pop-ups of its own. Hunt later teamed up with Bennett Cerf of Random House to create a pop-up series.

Now between 200 and 300 new pop-up books for both children and adults are produced in English each year. The largest collection of pop-up books is the Gustine Courson Weaver Collection at the University of North Texas Library.