Thursday, January 12, 2012

The National Sporting Library and Museum

By Eliza

I was in Middleburg, Virginia, earlier this week, and went for the first time into the museum portion of the National Sporting Library and Museum. If you don't know about the NSLM, it's a library and museum dedicated to the culture surrounding horse and field sports, located in one of America's centers for them: horse country, Virginia.
I've done plenty of research in the library over the years. I enjoy every visit, and always come away with important resources, whether I'm leafing through old copies of Thoroughbred Record magazine for a racing story, or delving into historic horse care manuals, but this was my first real visit to the art museum, which opened last year. It was amazing.

I live in Washington, D.C., home to the Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art among many others. This can admittedly dull a person to museum-going sometimes, but there is something about being in the presence of paintings by artists like Alfred Munnings and, my favorite, the born-in-Switzerland but somehow singularly American artist Edward Troye (the picture is of Troye's portrait of American Eclipse) that makes you appreciate the pure beauty of horses in a way you sometimes don't even when you're standing front of your own.

It's as if the lofty magnificence of horses is distilled, but also their quotidian capriciousness. Also, the museum, like the library, is itself beautiful. I saw the inaugural collection, Afield in America: 400 Years of Animal and Sporting Art, which closes on the 14th. The permanent collection has many of the same artists, including Munnings, Troye, and Franklin Voss, as well as prints, sculpture, and weathervanes dating back to the 17th century. If you're a horse person, and you make the trip to Washington, take the time in your museum-going schedule for this one. It may be 42 miles west of Air and Space, but it will bring you closer to the horses you love.


  1. Ooh, have to check this out next time I'm in town!

  2. Do they have features on the history of horses and women? My 19th c. American Women Writers class yesterday had an extended conversation about 19th c. women, horses, and the erotic.

  3. I just came across your blog when looking into different museums to go to in the area. Though I am not singularly horse obsessed, it sounds like this is an interesting find in a beautiful part of Virginia - I might just make the day trip!