In the 1960s, plastics engineer Gordon B. Lankton went to work at Nypro, an international injection molded plastics company in Clinton, Massachusetts and eventually became president. In 1989, on a business trip to Russia, Mr. Lankton purchased his first icon at an open-air market. His collection quickly grew, and eventually gave birth to the idea of starting a museum. Mr. Lankton chose Clinton for the location to give back to the community that had supported him.
The Museum is housed in a 150-year-old former mill building. A contemporary, aluminum-clad addition to the mill building accommodating the South Gallery, Library and offices was completed in 2008. The adjacent 150-year-old former courthouse and police station with holding cells was acquired in 2010 and renovated to provide additional gallery space, a terrace with a green roof, a tea room, and performance facilities to host lectures and concerts. Three floors of galleries display the permanent collection. A dedicated gallery features special exhibitions ranging from contemporary Russian art to icons from other Orthodox cultures. It is the only museum in the USA dedicated to Russian icons, and the largest collection of icons outside of Russia.
The Museum of Russian Icons inspires the appreciation and study of Russian culture by collecting and exhibiting icons and related objects; igniting the interest of national and international audiences; and offering interactive educational programs. The Museum serves as a leading center for research and scholarship through the Center for Icon Studies and other institutional collaborations.
“We value every visitor and the worth of every individual.”
~ Founder Gordon B. Lankton
- Inspiration – Inspiring curiosity and discovery
- Respect – Valuing every individual, culture, and expression
- Integrity – Maintaining the highest ethical standards in all activities and research
- Accessibility, inclusion, and diversity – Ensuring all visitors have a meaningful experience
ABOUT ICONS AND ICONOGRAPHY
An icon is an image of a holy person or event created by an iconographer who follows the strict standards of the Orthodox Church. Most of the Museum’s collection objects are created with egg tempera paint on wooden boards; icons can also be made in other materials, including mosaic, fresco, embroidery, and metal. To the Orthodox believer, the icon is a sacred object rather than a work of religious art. Neither the icons nor the saints they depict are worshipped but rather venerated by the faithful and used in prayer. Traditionally unsigned, icons are considered a window or portal into a divine realm.
Icons range in size from very small (for home use) to large (for cathedrals). First, an iconographer carves out the surface of the wood to create a self-contained border. Next, several layers of gesso, a paste prepared by mixing whiting (chalk) with size (sealant) or glue, are applied, and the image is etched onto the surface. Next, egg yolk and crushed mineral pigment are mixed to form tempera paint. The tempera is then applied by layering dark colors first then progressing to light colors. Finally, the completed paintings are usually sealed with linseed oil.
Iconography is a living tradition, and icons today are still painted using traditional centuries-old techniques and styles. The Museum’s collection includes very old icons (dating to the 15th century) and modern icons (painted in the last few years), with the majority dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.
The Museum does not offer assessments. We recommend contacting the Appraisers Association of America to find a licensed appraiser.