Cambridge Glass exhibition returns to Kent State University Museum

Alex Russell

Handcrafted glass of all shapes, sizes and colors reflect the overhead fluorescent lights of the small room, creating a kaleidoscopic view of the gallery. The sparkling glass pieces are neatly arranged in protective glass casing.

The Cambridge Glass Exhibition is back. This collection ranges from mid-19th century artifacts to present day creations.

When the Kent State University Museum reopened after renovation in 2003, the first exhibit featured was the Cambridge Glass display. Now, after being retired for a short time, the display will be open to the public tomorrow.

Museum Curator Anne Bissonnette explained that the glass exhibit was originally displayed in the museum to honor Ohio’s Bicentennial, and consists of only Ohio-linked artifacts.

“Ohio is a huge area for glass and pottery,” Bissonnette said.

Ohio’s land has always been rich in the natural resources needed for glass production, which made glass a popular and profitable business in Cambridge.

The most significant glass producer in Ohio of the early 20th century was the Cambridge Glass Company, which owned coal mines and natural gas wells that helped in the mass production of glass.

At its peak, in the 1930s, Cambridge employed nearly 700 men and women. However, Cambridge Glass closed its doors in 1954, when glass making began to become a less prosperous trade.

All the molds and equipment were left to Imperial Glass Co. of Bellaire. But when that company declared bankruptcy in 1984, the molds and glass pieces began to disperse throughout Ohio.

The glass makers that adopted some of the Cambridge glass went on to create their own companies. The ones represented in this exhibit are Degenhart Glass, which became Boyd’s Crystal Art Glass; Mosser Glass, Inc.; Guernsey Glass; and the original Cambridge Glass Company.

Museum Registrar Joanne Fenn explained that the display would now be long term because glass doesn’t damage from light like some of the dresses and other textiles on display at the museum.

Two prominent fashion industry leaders, Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, founded the museum in 1982, but it did not open to the public until 1985. The museum possesses over 200,000 cultural artifacts, ranging from dresses and textiles from around the world to Ohio pottery and collectable glass, such as the pieces in the Cambridge exhibit.

The glass is displayed in the Tarter/Miller Gallery, which is named after the first two charter members of National Cambridge Collectors, Inc.: Jabe Tarter and Paul Miller. They donated most of their collection to the museum.

The museum is located in Rockwell Hall. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. Thursday; and noon to 4:45 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free to Kent State students and $5.00 for non-students.

Contact fine and professional arts reporter Alex Russell at [email protected].