Of Accidental Origin Work from the Lamont Gallery Collection

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Of Accidental Origin
Saltonstall House Curatorial Project
Phillips Exeter Academy
During the 2016-2017 school year, a team of students embarked on a curatorial project to position the arts as a platform for sparking conversations about Exeter, drawing from objects from the Lamont Gallery’s permanent collection.

The site of the students’ curatorial intervention is the Principal’s house.  A space for campus-wide afternoon teas and a haven of alumni and Trustee meetings, Principal MacFarlane’s Dining Room in Saltonstall House is one of the most public, yet private rooms on the Phillips Exeter Academy campus. Those who gather in the space are united by their connection to Exeter, but diverse in their ages, backgrounds, and points of view.

Visitors are invited to reflect on the rich and varied journeys made by students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, using the art on display—now, no longer accidental—as a catalyst for purposeful learning.


Working with the Lamont Gallery’s Collections and Archive assistant, Olivia Knauss, and the Lamont Gallery Curator and Director, Lauren O’Neal, students reviewed over 670+ photographs of work in the Lamont Gallery collection and selected items from these photographs.

IMG_7598 2The students originally selected 38 pieces of artwork for this exhibition. Once they saw the space with the 38 pieces laid out they realized they had to pare down their selection. The current exhibition includes a total of 30 works of art – and one outdoor sculpture – from the Lamont Gallery collection.

15 students spent 16 hour-long meetings over the course of 5 months.

Together, the students ate 48 pizzas (384 slices) over the course of the curatorial project. On average, 8 students attended these regular meetings. So, over the course 19 meetings, the 8 students each had 6 pizzas for themselves!


The curatorial team visited the Peabody Essex Museum and Four-Square Framing. Between these trips and meetings, this adds up to roughly 32 hours spent completing this project. This does not account for the time students spend researching and writing labels outside of meeting times. For comparison, one single-term class at Phillips Exeter Academy is made up of 35, 50-minute class periods.

To see the exhibition and hear from the students involved in the curatorial team, check out the video, Of Accidental Origins: Work from the Lamont Gallery Collection, created by current student Lucas Schroeder’18 which catalogs the process of creating this exhibition.

Please visit the Of Accidental Origin student blog to see more about this exhibition and even take a quiz to see which piece of artwork you are!




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