A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Behringer-Crawford Museum’s ‘A Window Through Time’ offers a glimpse of Christmas treasures past


By Patricia A. Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

The Behringer Crawford Museum in Devou Park in Covington has a new exhibit, thanks to the generosity of Pat and Mary Ashcraft. Called A Window Through Time, the exhibit is truly like stepping back in time and experiencing the holiday decorations people treasured in years past.

The teddy bear tea party at BCM. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

It is impossible to take in everything — this is a display that, although children will be interested, and especially fascinated with the teddy bears, the experience peaks with appreciative individuals who understand the enormity of the presence of treasures from the past.

“We have both been collecting for years,” said Mary Ashcraft. “In recent years we wondered what
our options would be for the future of our collection when we are gone. Finally we thought about the
museum, and that seemed like the best option so that so many more people can experience the beauty
of the pieces.”

Traveling through red curtains, tied back so visitors can glimpse the entire picture of an old
fashioned room decorated for Christmas, visitors see guests gathered around a dining table. Six teddy
bears, of varying fur hues, have climbed up on presents to sit at a comfortable level to be able to partake of any food and beverage that might grace the tiny china plates and cups. The bears have all dressed in their holiday finery, appearing ready to make memories of this festive occasion.

In the background stands a sparsely flocked tree, immediately evocative of Christmases from long-ago times. The tree is actually made of goose feathers, dyed green, and wrapped carefully around wire which is twisted into the shape of a Christmas tree.

Pam Spoor points out the delicate ornaments on the feather tree. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

“The feather you need to make this is a certain size, either goose or turkey, and you wind it around a piece of wire, and as you do that, the feather starts to open up,” said Pat Ashcraft. “Then you
do this a gazillion times, and you have a tree.”

Hand-made old fashioned ornaments grace the delicate feather branches, some made of cotton batting and carefully painted to resemble fruits and shapes, shining in lights trained on the tree. Some
ornaments are carefully crafted in glass.

“These ornaments on here are absolutely gorgeous,” said Pam Spoor, who is on the Museum board. “Most of them are German.”

Pat added that the Americans did get into the market for the ornaments, particularly when World War I and II came along, with the blockades. He marveled at the talent it took to create the ornaments.

Mary Ashcraft delights in showing how the Santa puppet works. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

He said when the English concept of Christmas spread to Germany the country went wild for it and would go out to the countryside and cut down fir trees. However the trees belonged to the nobility,
and they didn’t let the people cut the trees down. As an alternative, the people looked at what was
plentiful, which were geese, and with a little ingenuity, they invented feather trees.

The Ashcrafts found a lady in Cincinnati who crafts the feather trees, and since Mary collects amethyst, they ordered a tree in amethyst. The color at first was darker, and Pat said it was not pretty, but Mary loved it, and the ones they donated to the museum are a beautifully muted shade of amethyst and are decorated with amethyst crystals.

Another tree in the room, green this time, can gently rotate to a music-box Christmas song, and yet another tree is white, festooned with bird figures.

There is a teddy bear in a delicately unique child sized sleigh, pulled by the antique figure of a
horse with a sleigh bell collar, looking for all the world like it would take off trotting down a snowy lane.

Santa goes comfy. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

In another room are old characters, elves, and a Santa dressed in comfy clothes sitting on a mantel, with beautifully sculpted clay features, and one Santa figure, high up on a shelf, with papier mache features. A few angels are very notable, one high above cabinet with a clay face and ginger tresses, one who would be a treasure at the top of any tree. A toy puppet Santa came to life when Mary
demonstrated pulling a string.

Pat pointed out the Carmen Miranda trees, tiny pink feather trees decorated with lots of fruit, giving them the same shimmer as the Brazilian singer herself.

Around the bottom of most of the feather trees are hand made fences, and in a few cases, small
mischievous bears are climbing in and up the bottom of the trees.

If anyone can tear themselves away from the bears, trees and ornament treasures, there is a
Charles Dickens room close by that has tiny realistic Dickensian houses portraying England in olden
times of David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol.

Of course, the trains will always hold the attention of the younger museum patrons, with multiple
Lionel trains, and Thomas the train, with interactive stations, and lots of tiny villages and people.

The museum has planned many wonderful events for families at the museum this season, and it is definitely worth checking out the website for details and times for tea parties, Santa visits, and readings of the Polar Express.

Also, there are activities outside that are totally free, and include making crafts and s’mores.

The museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. It is closed Mondays.

A white feature tree with fragile bird ornaments. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

A feather tree with handmade mushroom ornaments, a German tradition. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)

A feather tree with delicate ornaments. (Photo by Patricia Scheyer/NKyTribune)


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