Henry Ashton Crosby Forbes, 87, of Cambridge, MA, died of natural causes on Sunday, July 22, 2012 at the Mary Wade Home in Fair Haven. Born in Westwood, MA on June 25, 1925, the youngest of five siblings, to the late Allan and Josephine Crosby Forbes, he was the beloved husband of 48 years to the late Grace W. (Pierce), loving father of Robert Forbes and his wife Joanne Foodim of New Haven and Douglas Forbes and his wife Heidi of Manhattan, NY and devoted grandfather to Rachel and David. A descendant of Robert Bennet Forbes, one of America's great China trade merchants, Forbes charted an unlikely path for himself when, in 1965, he founded the Museum of the American China Trade in a home he'd inherited from his aunt. One of the earliest scholars to look specifically at this type of cross-cultural art and history, Forbes was a leading force in the field for over forty years. He was a frequent lecturer and writer on all aspects of Asian export art and in 1975, Crosby wrote (with John Devereux Kernan and Ruth Wilkins) Chinese Export Silver: 1785-1885, which remains the definitive volume on the subject. Forbes' kindness and generosity made him beloved by nearly everyone he met. He loved music, rarely missing the BSO, and was an active member of the St. Botolph Club, the Club of Odd Volumes, and many other societies. In 2011 he moved to New Haven to be closer to his children. A memorial service will be held in December. Contributions may be sent to the Forbes House Museum, 215 Adams Street, Milton, MA 02186. BEECHER & BENNETT, 2300 Whitney Ave., Hamden in care of arrangements.

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  1. I came to know Crosby when I served on the board of the Forbes Trust for the Forbes House Museum, ultimately becoming Chairman. We became friends and always enjoyed great conversations. When I served as CEO of the Dedham Historical Society and Museum, he volunteered to catalogue all of the Museum’s Asian artifacts–a most valuable donation of time, but also a wonderfully shared experience for me. He will be sadly missed. Ron Frazier

  2. Crosby was a donor and kind advisor when I curated a major exhibition, Silk Roads-China Ships, for the Royal Ontario Museum in 1983. He delighted us with loans from Forbes House and was a welcome guest at our opening gala. He was a rare soul and I salute him. R.I.P.

  3. I will so much miss Crosby. Though I had moved across the country, it made me happy to know that he was still in Cambridge. He was one of the kindest and best people I have ever known. Lynn Salerno

  4. Crosby has been an indelible mark on my life from day one. I will always remember his kind heart and soul. I worked with Crosby back in 1982. In addition to being a volunteer Visitor Guide for the Guatemalan Textiles Exhibit at the Museum of Science and also Assistant Archaeologist for the Dover Historical Society, I was volunteer Archivist for the China Trade Museum. Crosby took me on a tour through the CTM for the first time and that was quite memorable. He was most enthusiastic and friendly. I could tell he just loved his job. Crosby was amazed that I could transcribe and translate Spanish documents (which came from merchants of the China Trade) as well as transcribe other documents from the 18th/19th/20th century. I processed most of the archival manuscript collections by organizing and then writing finding aids for each of them. I worked closely with Crosby on several projects including the preservation of manuscript and photograph collections. Resulting from the 1984 merger of the CTM and Peabody Museum of Salem, all of the collections were transferred to the Salem with the exception of the archival collections. The deal was, the archival collections were to be transferred to the Massachusetts Historical Society and I was to go with them to safeguard, preserve, and provide access to these valuable collections. I diligently worked at the MHS as a part-time Archivist to continue working on the CTM archival collections. At a special public function at the MHS, Crosby gave special recognition to me for my outstanding work on the CTM collections. And it was at that time the completed written work was entered into THE NATIONAL REGISTER. Crosby was most proud of this accomplishment. He recognized that my dedication and contribution to the Archives field was immeasurable. Part 2 continued on next entry….

  5. His kind heart, caring and loving nature, and his enthusiasm an dedication will remain to be an influence on my life, career, and personal interests. Crosby was my mentor, colleague, and a devoted dear friend. I will always treasure those moments with him, and the love we shared for the preservation of history. A part of Crosby will always live on inside me!

  6. Part 2 continued… One day at the CTM, Crosby gave me a wonderful gift (which belonged to his father) a fox-trot and hunt watercolor Currier & Ives just a a little faded and water-damaged. It was special in its own way for he shared the watercolor with me as part of his father. After a public event on the Museum’s lawn, Crosby gave me an octagonal Chinese cabbage-leaf design plate. It was so beautiful! I discovered in time other plates with the same design. And now I have a wonderful set including a teapot. I have a true appreciation of the Chinese culture and customs which were then incorporated into my personal lifestyle. Even my own bedroom was decorated with Chinese designs. Within correspondence saved over the years writing to Crosby, he gave me the inspiration to be the best I could be as Archivist. As I recall, in a letter of recommendation he wrote (1987), he mentioned .a valued colleague who is intelligent and dedicated worker, and I am gratified to learn of her continuing career advancement.. In several phone conversations, Crosby provided insight on handling archival and preservation issues for specific collections. I felt re-assured of the options which were available to me in order to make accurate decisions. We would also talk about our families during the Holiday season. Having known Crosby has been an integral part of my archival/library career. His kind heart, caring and loving nature, and kindness, and his enthusiasm and dedication has made quite an influence on my life, career, and personal interests. Crosby was my mentor, colleague, and a devoted dear friend. I will always treasure those moments with him and the love we both shared together for the preservation of history. A part of him will always live on inside of me!

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