Seattle Culture

A History Museum at Home | Sponsored

Creating your own mini galleries with art, photos, and objects you love

By Northwest Framing September 1, 2023

Framing of an antique block

This post is sponsored.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.


Everywhere you turn in Brendan’s home is a piece of history with a compelling story. A small delicate piece of metal stamped with a man and lion sits inset against a vibrant red matboard.

“This is a gladiator fight ticket from the Colosseum in Thracian during the slave uprising in Rome. The time of Spartacus,” Brendan said. “I love history.”

Brendan, a greater Seattle-area customer, has trusted Museum Quality Framing for years and has framed more than 40 pieces with us.

“No matter emotional or monetary value, I know I can trust Museum Quality Framing,” Brendan said. “I will not go to any other frame shop. The care they take is seen in each piece.”

“A good friend of mine found Northwest Framing and had a few pieces framed for me at their shops,” Brendan. “When I saw the prices were reasonable for the quality, well, why would I choose to go anywhere else?”

To the left of his doorway is a stunning seven-foot Christian prayer scroll in Aramaic laying against a linen fabric mat with Tru Vue® Museum Glass to protect the scroll and allow the incredible detail to be seen easily.

“This scroll was part of Paul Newman’s private art collection which he donated to the Santa Barbara Museum in California,” Brendan said. “It’s from 900 A.D., the Coptic period.”

Down the hall three black and white photographs are displayed side by side under a Polynesian hammerhead ceremonial headdress.

Left: Brendan’s grandmother; welding tanks in World War II. Middle: Brendan’s father photographed a road in Kansas in the 1950s. Right: A B48 bomber bay. Brendan’s uncle was a pilot.

Displaying photos that are part of your family history adds a special personal quality to your home gallery that evokes a sense of pride.

While walking through Brendan’s beautiful, curated home, a photo with torn edges jumps off the wall with its rustic appearance.

“This is a photo with its original edges intact,” Brendan said. “Look at the horses walking in the valley. You can see the original notes written on the sides by photographer Edward Curtis.”

Curtis’s well-known Pacific Northwest photos are displayed in the Chihuly Museum in Seattle.

“Curtis came to the Pacific Northwest to be a gold miner, and when that didn’t pan out, his photos became some of the most influential in American history,” Brendan said.

Themes of red and gold are throughout the home and in the artwork within Brendan’s collection.

The Great Escape movie poster is original and was one of the first pieces I had framed with Museum Quality Framing,” Brendan said. “I got it from an old theater in Belfast, when I was living in the Republic of Ireland. My family is Irish, and I have dual citizenship.”

Brendan’s love of movies is seen throughout this home in other posters, such as Journey to the Seventh Planet, which is print No. 61 out of 352, the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

At the top of Brendan’s first stairwell is a piece that makes you feel you just walked into an Indiana Jones movie. From approximately the 16th century, this written text is a Psalm from a bound gilded bible from monks in Britain.

Most likely sheepskin or goat skin, this Psalm had to be preserved in just the right way. Slits in the mat the Psalm was mounted on were made just behind the edges of the art piece. Then strips of Melinex, a clear mylar-like material, were hand cut, so the Melinex could be fed through the matboard. Since Melinex is shiny, it was sprayed with a matte finish clear coat before assembly.

“Out of all my pieces, ancient maps are my most favorite part of my collection due to their high artistic quality,” Brendan said. “My 1763 map of Southern France was made on wood block, inked in black and then all the colors were done by hand.”

Multiple acid-free mats were used in framing each map to create depth and provide color or shadow around the borders of the maps to show off their exquisite detail.

“My maps are places I have spent time and they remind me of every good thing that happened during my visits,” Brendan said. “The two maps I hung vertically have interesting stories. The one on top is from 1563 A.D. depicting Ireland, but written in French, while the one on the bottom is from mid-1700s Jerusalem, with an inaccurate depiction of the city, as it was made to seduce European travelers to come visit.”

Two other framed maps in the upstairs bathroom are from 1780 depicting Hampshire in Britain, where one side of his family comes from.

“In the lower right corner of the other map, you will see the actual location of Downtown Abby,” Brendan added.

In the upstairs hallway Brendan has a group of five art pieces. One in particular stands out with its bright colors and design.

“This one is especially important to me,” Brendan said. “This is a painting by American artist Alexander Calder, showing the yellow and red, with the black and white designs.

“I like that Calder’s art has free motion,” Brendan said. “It also matches my red and yellow motif around my home.”

The piece to the left of Calder’s art are six individual embroidered lobsters, which are small religious textiles. To the far left are two photographs by famous nature photographer Ansel Adams.

As you round the corner to the second upper stairwell, there is a colorful and very large canvas painting of world-famous Blues musician B.B. King by George Hunt. Hunt is a well-known African American artist who focused on subjects related to African American and Southern subjects and experiences. His work is in the African American Experience Museum in Washington, D.C.

“We chose a simpler frame for this canvas so the signature and colors could be front and center,” Brendan said. “One of King’s agents commissioned the painting to be used on B.B. King’s 70th birthday album of greatest hits. King’s agent disliked the painting and mentioned he wanted it destroyed.

“A reporter who worked for my father was waiting in a lobby to write an article about George Hunt. The reporter overheard a conversation about the painting and after the agent stormed out and the interview was over, the reporter asked if he could have the painting. Hunt said ‘no,’ and that it was going in a dumpster at 5 p.m.  The reporter came back then and fished the painting from the dumpster.

“A few months later that same reporter invited my parents to dinner at his home. During their visit my father, commented on the painting, so the reporter shared how he obtained it. My father asked the reporter what he was going to do with it as it wasn’t hung and offered to buy it. The reporter said he had nowhere to put it, so he gifted it to my father to thank him for all the support my father gave him during his career.”

As you enter the stairwell to another floor, there are several art pieces displayed with handcrafted shadowboxes creating an eclectic gallery. Each piece was created to show off Brendan’s objects from all sides.

One in particular is vertically oriented featuring five metal Incan monkey heads from 1800 B.C.


“They were worn as adornments in priest’s beards and their clothing,” Brendan said. “What’s amazing is how Museum Quality Framing used magnets on the matboard to hold up each head for display. They appear floating in the frame. We did that to several of my artifacts, so we didn’t have to sew or glue anything down. It keeps the integrity of each piece.”

While admiring the 13 pieces on the wall above the stairs you can see a large, unfolded letter on very old paper with creases. Upon looking closer there are two different cursive writing samples on the paper.

“My three times great grandfather was in the Civil War, and as he was marching, he wanted to write a letter to his parents, but was having trouble finding paper,” Brendan said. “He found an abandoned house and within it was a deed to the house. He used that deed as paper to write his parents’ letter telling them how he was doing and what he was experiencing.  The great thing about the way Bellevue MQF framed it, is no glue was used to hold the letter up. To avoid damaging it, they used clear little tabs to hold the letter like a photo. If I ever want to take the letter out and look at it, I can.”

Our shops use inventive ways to preserve art and allow our clients to enjoy and access their treasures. Preservation without damage to documents and art is an important part of framing.

One of the shadow boxes near the letter contains a beautiful piece of wood from the 16th century. This is Brendan’s family coat of arms carved from an exquisite piece of oak.

“Our family crest was awarded to us by the King of England all those years ago,” Brendan said. “This wood was part of our mantle in our family home in Missouri. Before the home burned down, I was able to salvage it.”

“All of my pieces but one have Tru Vue® Museum Glass to cut glare as I have a lot of natural light in my home,” he notes. “It’s completely worth the expense and allows me to place my art pieces anywhere I want in my home regardless of light.”

At the end of the wall are two additional shadow boxes containing a Roman Spear from 3500 B.C. and a Swiss Celtic Knife from 1200 B.C.

“These are also upheld by magnets Bellevue MQF used to hold the pieces up for display,” Brendan said. “There aren’t any holding mechanisms that are hiding or slightly covering the detail, which is fantastic.”

A large antique sword and rifle made of steel and oak adorns the top floor walls near Brendan’s home office. They were his three times great grandfather’s sword and rifle from the Civil War, and are encased in custom frame boxes more than four feet tall. Museum glass, techniques such as sewing the objects to a matboard with heavy upholstery thread, using magnets, or even small plastic or metal grips to hold the objects up are explored, to display the piece without damage. No glue or adhesives were used.

“It’s important to me to have these items from my family’s past,” Brendan said. “So many families have lost their ancestors’ belongings throughout the generations. Bellevue MQF handled these items with great care.”


Brendan has been collecting artifacts for more than 25 years and has created a sanctuary for these important artifacts, preserving family history, who we are and where we come from. History can be fierce and upsetting, while also being beautiful and comforting. It connects us to specific times, places, and events, helping us to view history in different ways, encouraging us to ask questions, and learn about ourselves.



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