Skip to Content

MSU Museum's Val Berryman rings in the holidays at Williamston Depot Museum

The Williamston Depot Museum is hosting two events at the museum in December featuring MSU Museum Curator of History Val Roy Berryman, a Williamston resident and museum board member.

On Sunday, Dec. 4 from 2 - 4 p.m., a Holiday Open House includes Berryman's exhibition, The Art of Christmas. This is Berryman's eighth annual display at the Depot Museum of vintage Christmas decorations from his personal collections. The theme for this year's display is The Art of Christmas. This exhibit includes original works of art, prints and wood carvings created by artists from around the world on the theme of Christmas. Among the hand-drawn and hand-painted works of art are the original pen and ink drawings from which newspaper political cartoons were printed and the full color paintings on art board from which Christmas cards were produced. The wood carvings are mostly of Santa Claus from the United States, France, Germany, the Philippines and other countries. Art prints representing Christmas traditions join wood engravings and lithographs of artwork by Thomas Nast and other illustrators whose work was featured in nineteenth century publications.

Berryman's presentation on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. will focus on the two American artists who were most influential in forming the present day image of Santa Claus. One of them worked in New York City and drew his first Santa during the Civil War, now commemorating its 150th anniversary. He was the famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who is also recognized for his creation of the elephant and donkey symbols to represent the Republican and Democratic parties. Nast's Santa drawings appeared every Christmas from the 1860s into the 1880s and established the image of Santa as a rotund and happy character hailing from the North Pole

The second artist painted his first Santa Claus for the Coca-Cola Company in 1931 and continued to paint a friendly and familiar, grandfatherly Santa with a glass or bottle of Coke for the next thirty years. That artist was Haddon Sundblom, a noted illustrator who was born in Muskegon, Michigan and left to work in Chicago at the age of 14. Berryman will present examples of the Christmas art of both artists from his personal collection. He will also touch on Norman Rockwell and his Saturday Evening Post covers and others.   

For more information, to check on museum hours or to schedule appointments to view the exhibit, call (517) 230-9030 or 655-1785.  The Williamston Depot Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and communicating the heritage of the Williamston/Webberville region.  The exhibition and presentation are free with donations appreciated.

The museum, located at 369 West Grand River in Williamston, is open most weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1p.m. and will be open Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 p.m. on Dec.4, 11 and 18 and Jan. 8.