The Nut Museum
by Christopher Steiner
At an early age, Elizabeth Tashjian (1912-2007) demonstrated her artistic talents — first as a violin virtuoso and then as a painter. In the 1930s, she attended the National Academy of Design, where she began painting nuts. In 1950, Tashjian left New York City with her mother to live in a large Victorian mansion in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Following the death of her mother, Tashjian decided in 1972, quite spontaneously, to open her house as a public museum devoted to nuts. In the Nut Museum, she proudly displayed her nut paintings, alongside her collection of nuts, nutcrackers, and nut memorabilia. In 1981 she was invited as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Over the next two decades she made countless more national media appearances as “The Nut Lady” of Old Lyme.
In April 2002, Tashjian was found unconscious (at age 89) in her home. She was transferred to an assisted living facility, and her house was sold by the State of Connecticut to pay back taxes and health care costs. Professor Christopher Steiner was able to convince the Judge of Probate to allow him to remove, before the sale of the home, Tashjian’s art and the contents of the Nut Museum. Under his stewardship, Connecticut College was entrusted to preserve approximately 150 paintings, 200 drawings, 20 sculptures, 100 boxes of documents and photographs, and all furniture and displays from the museum portion of the house — thereby saving a local and national treasure that might otherwise have been destroyed.
This project aims to digitize a portion of the Elizabeth Tashjian Archive at Connecticut College, and to develop a website to make the collection accessible to a wider audience.
Staff Project Team
Lyndsay Bratton, Assistant Director for Digital Scholarship
Rose Oliveira, Linda Lear Special Collections Librarian
mosaGRAPHICS/Sarah Thompson (Chester, CT)
Aruna Gopalan ’21, Ginger Miller ’21
Presentations and Exhibition
- Bucknell University Digital Scholarship Conference, Lewisburg, PA, October 2019
- Revisiting the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashijan, Cummings Art Gallery, Connecticut College, New London, CT, October 21-December 6, 2019
- Connecticut Digital Humanities Conference, Hartford, CT, February 2020