In the late 1930s or early 1940s, Alice Lusk Webster gave an absorbing lecture in which she described her eclectic collecting strategies:
"I am often asked how I managed to get together material covering a period of 6000 years and the applied arts of many lands and I can only say that luck was with me. My only assets in 1935 were a storage receipt from an American warehouse and an acknowledgement of a loan to the R.O.M. These were, so to speak, the claim checks for a collection of Oriental art which my husband and I had formed during the first decade of the 19th century, but had abandoned on our return to Canada in 1914, as incompatible with the simple life we proposed to live in Shediac. Textiles and potteries were therefore packed and stored while paintings and screens were shipped to Toronto. For 20 years the sole reminders of their existence were bills to the warehouse and a perennial letter from Dr. Currelly urging us to transform the loan into a gift. Dr. Currelly was determined to have those paintings and since we resisted his blandishments in 1934 he offered in exchange for them, material of equal value which would be suitable for the NBM. Ladies and gentlemen I am Ό Connecticut Yankee, ready at all time to trade anything so I set out for Toronto forthwith and for 23 paintings secured the 450 objects which laid the foundations of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese collections
"From Toronto, I went to NY where an indulgent family and sympathetic friends encouraged me with gifts of every description but before I could return to Canada with my loot I was obliged to make a hurried trip abroad. This put me back 6 weeks in my schedule but the time was not ill-spent for my daughter and her French husband made sundry useful contributions and in London I secured a donation of British-Roman and early English material from the Guildhall Museum - persuaded the Dean of Westminster to part with a 13th century fragment of the Abbey and obtained a Tudor Rose from the contractors who were repairing the Houses of Parliament
"The gaps in the existing groups were very noticeable and the European oddments at my disposal would certainly not fill the 5 new cases I had so recklessly ordered so back I went to Toronto and this time swopped a case of rare books on the Orient and four gowns made for my mother by Mr. Worth in the 80s of the last century and for these received a reassuring assortment of objects. I later had the satisfaction of seeing my mother's costumes and their accessories, bonnets, slippers, parasols and fans beautifully mounted in a case adjoining the one containing robes worn by Queen Mary...
" but I may say that some of my most precious accessions have been extracted from the rag-bags and dust-bins of my friends. Those about to move from large houses to small flats are particularly responsive to appeals spring cleanings bring to light superfluities, and accidents occur in the best regulated establishments. It is known that I prefer a cracked cup or a chipped plate, which were once good, to a perfect specimen of inferior quality. I once received from an ardent amateur of Chinese porcelain 2 shoeboxes filled with the sweepings of a cabinet which had been overturned by a careless maid. I began at 5 in the afternoon to sort the fragments of lemon yellow, turquoise, mirror black and blue and white sticking together with aeroplane glue, the pieces that matched as one would sections of a jig-saw puzzle and at 2.30 in the morning when I went to bed 13 reconstructed vases & snuff-bottles were standing in a row on the mantelpiece."
From the records of the New Brunswick Museum Art Department, F545, New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library.