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April 19, 2001

Nationality Rooms plans ethnic artifacts auction

A one-of-a-kind ethnic artifacts auction will be held this month by Pitt's Nationality Rooms. The charity affair, with more than 200 items up for bid, begins with a preview at 1 p.m. followed by the auction at 2:30 p.m. on April 29 in the Cathedral of Learning Commons Room.

Included among the ethnic objects are Lithuanian dolls from the 1940s, African tools, a pre-World War II Japanese sword and dagger set, Israeli wine storage jars from the 1st century B.C. and the 4th century A.D., Russian brass samovars and a framed print of an original portrait of England's Queen Elizabeth at the time of her coronation — all of which were accumulated over decades as gifts but not displayed in the rooms. More than a dozen Nationality Rooms chairs also will be auctioned.

According to Nationality Rooms Program director E. Maxine Bruhns, almost every artifact has its own interesting story of how it was acquired. "There is a lithograph of Oslo, for example, given by the King of Norway, who lived in exile with the chairman of the Norwegian Room committee during World War II," Bruhns said. "And we have a donor, who wants to remain anonymous, who gave a whole collection of really good ethnic artifacts from Africa, including beaded caps and embroidered things and a beautifully carved headboard."

There are Romanian icons that were gifts of the country after the Romanian room committee lost the $5,000 it had raised toward the establishment of the room in the 1929 stock market crash, Bruhns said. "There was a world's fair in New York which had authentic icons on display and some University people and the room's architect went over to the fair and were given the icons once they said what had happened."

Bruhns added that each room's committee approved the articles to be auctioned. "It's not that they want to get rid of them, but many of these beautiful things have been sitting in storage for more than 40 years, and they are going to bring in money for scholarships."

Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Nationality Rooms study abroad scholarships, which are awarded annually and range in value from $2,000 to $4,000. The scholarships enable Pitt students to experience another country first-hand through five weeks of cultural immersion and study. Each ethnic artifact sold will benefit that room's scholarships.

All the artifacts up for auction have been appraised by certified appraisers who will act as auction managers, Bruhns said.

Cash or checks with proper identification are acceptable for payment at the auction. The costs include a buyer's premium of 15 percent to cover the services of the Three Rivers Auction Company, which is providing the auctioneer and other services.

For more information about the ethnic artifacts auction, call 624-6150.

–Peter Hart

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