Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Shelburne - So Much More Than a Museum

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Shelburne, Vermont

Walking onto the grounds of the Shelburne Museum I have to choose between a large ship, a modern gallery building, or a lighthouse. So cool!

On the way to the lighthouse is a series of shiny, moving metal sculptures by George Sherwood. They all change their look with the breeze and are wonderful. My favorite is the mesmerizing Wind Orchid III. Unfortunately the video won't download.

Imagine these in random motion - lovely.
Gyros II
Wind Waves
While a lighthouse without a body of water is strange, the Colchester Point Lighthouse has been here since 1952. Built in 1871, the lighthouse marked three reefs a mile offshore in Lake Champlain until 1933. 

A sweet retirement spot
after decades of working in harsh conditions
The shallow stairs show the scars of many boot tips
The original structure as art in the wall.
Many 19th century buildings dot the grounds. The Owl House is used as a crafts classroom and not open when I pass by. Still, I love this little place and it's garden.

The happiest statue.
Owl House

The Web Gallery is a two story building built in 1879 and moved to the museum in 1951, it holds the Paint America collection.

Magic Glasses, 1871
Including the goblet from the painting
Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite painters although I've never seen Soaring, 1950. A not-so-subtle depiction of the vulnerability of American in the Cold War.
This is exactly how I picture him when reading the story. Rip Van Winkle, 1861.
There is a small room of portraits painted in the late 1800's. I can't imagine the parents saying "Oh, it's beautiful, it looks just like our girls!"
The South Royalton sawmill was built in 1787, and is equipped with an up-and-down saw which preceeded the more efficient circular saw introduced in 1820.

Original up-and-down saw.
The size of this 1850's transverse planer is amazing. These large tools were used to smooth boards for barns, ships and wagons, powered by large water wheels.
The Settlers' House and Barn were dismantled and rebuilt here in 1955, including numbering and re-stacking every stone in the chimney. 

The soot in front of the fireplace came along on the move.
I love these vintage tools found in the barn.
A small vegetable garden beside the house.
The two-lane covered bridge spanned the Lamoille River in Cambridge, Vermont, for over a hundred years. The arch truss design was patented by Theodore Burr in 1804.

Parallel-chord trusses and arches added strength, allowing for longer spans. And they're beautiful.
We mean it!
The Stagecoach Inn was a store and rooming house, and now houses a gallery of Americana artifacts. The wide-plank floors and stairs all creak with age. Original stencils line the ceilings and door frames. The docent is enthusiastic about the collection, and may have come with the building in 1953. 

Not the most welcoming statue to find just inside the front door, a beautiful wood and metal warrior.
A collection of signs from 19th century small businesses including this barber,
and skate-maker.
Pisces, 1850-1870. It was rare to select a weather vane based on one's astrological sign, this one was likely on the house of an astrologer, serving as both a wind indicator and a trade sign.
Spinning Woman, 1850-1875. Carved wood and painted metal, this whirligig was a trade sign for a New England yarn store. It is described as one of the finest surviving 19th century whirligigs, and more mechanically ambitious than most.

Whale With A Long Tail, 1840
Hobby Goat, 1880. This friendly little guy must  have made his children so happy. He makes me happy :-)
My favorite piece in the gallery is this colorful 1877 runner displayed on a closed-off staircase.
The 1841 Vergennes, Vermont, Schoolhouse was the first structure moved to the museum in 1940. With its arched doorway and projecting bell tower, it is my favorite building. It is very different from the one-room-school I attended in 1st and 2nd grade, although the desks are similar.

Brick beauty

Will our grandchildren be able to read this?
The large brick farmhouse called the Variety Unit, is the only building original to the site. It is a long, two-story structure added onto several times in the "continuous architecture" tradition. Narrow hallways, deep windows, and room after room of collections. 

Some are wonderful, others are strange. All of them are interesting. 

The whale bone carvings are intricate 
and complicated
The largest collection of glass canes in any American museum. Made from 1847 to 1957, these canes include several blown from a single length of glass, and are made for collectors.
Incredible detail.
One of the stranger collections is an entire hallway of antique pressed glass goblets. They aren't identified in any way and all seem to be different.
Followed by one man's trivet collection. Hmmm.

My late partner collected traveling inkwells and would have loved this wonderful collection with pieces from 1780-1920.
After the delightful tiny inkwells I come to the room holding the Mammoth Jugs. 

I'll wait for you to stop snickering......

Each one is about two and a half feet tall. See - jugs. Big ones.
Over half of the top floor is the doll collection. Porcelain, cloth, wood, and other materials, this is a huge collection. There are dolls from many countries and some as old as 1768. I'm not a big fan, but some are pretty amazing. 

Victorian dolls made of wood and porcelain
Chinese dolls, 1867-1880
Cloth dolls, 1915-1935. The colors are still so bright.
Wooden clown.
Some must have been made to encourage chastity......
The last collection is my favorite in this large building. I spend nearly an hour enjoying all the minute details, taking dozens of photos. 

It will have to wait for the next post.


  1. We've been to Vermont a couple times but never stopped at the Shelburne Museum. You are doing a great job sharing lots of things I would enjoy seeing. I guess we need stop someday:) That runner going up the steps is absolutely gorgeous! Your photo is beautiful as I can only imagine what it looked like in person. I love doll houses! I hope that is what you will be sharing soon:) Mammoth Jugs...haha!

    1. You and John would love the history here. The opportunity to see so much outdoors is a great bonus. You're going to love the next post :-))))

  2. Isn't this place just amazing! I call it the museum of all museums and the collections are just priceless. At first I wondered why they give us two days to check this place out and I think two days isn't even enough!
    Im expecting your next post is one of those one of a kind collection with that grand finale at the end :)
    Great job of showing lots of details!

    1. I'm so glad I had the whole day, and I'd love to spend another whole one! Thanks ML, I want to remember so many wonderful things from this amazing place.

  3. Such an eclectic collection. I'll bet the sculptures are awesome in motion. So much to see. Schools do need to teach cursive or many will never read historic papers. Never heard of glass canes but then they wouldn't be practical to use.

    1. I've read that "there isn't time" to teach cursive anymore - what?! Too much time spent preparing for testing instead of learning I'm afraid. I think the canes must have started as samples of their work, but there was no information on the "why" of their crafting.

  4. Interesting, for sure. You two have certainly made tracks this year. What fun you've had doing it. Look at all the nice places you've had a chance to visit. Isn't retirement wonderful?

    1. It is the best for sure! I still can't believe we're in New England.

  5. The lighthouse would have been my first stop too although one without water is definitely strange. LOL at your comment on the children’s portrait. Love the Burr arch truss covered bridges. Wonder why they took the bridge off of the water it spanned? SO glad you got that sign. We saw the same thing on a NY covered bridges only it was so weathered we couldn’t read it. All that was left was $1 and We Mean it. Too funny! That runner is absolutely gorgeous. Is it hooked? Seems like they were doing the Shelburne at about the same time as the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown. Excellent quotes on the school board many of which I remember hearing from my parents and grandparents. Excellent question about whether our grandchildren will be able to read them. Clearly no one is teaching cursive anymore as far as I know. Well actually I’d call those pitchers. In my past a jug didn’t have a spout. Great post!

    1. The bridge still spans a small creek, but they saved it from destruction to move to the museum. Yes, the runner is hooked and very thick, I love it! I wonder what quotes our grandkids will remember?

  6. What a wonderful museum—the buildings are so unique, and the collections equally so. I have a particular love of folk art, and the pieces in the Stagecoach Inn are wonderful—especially that adorable hobby goat. Do you know if all of the collections came from individuals? I'm always fascinated by what people decide to collect. Those whale bone carvings are just amazing. Such an interesting post and great photos!

    1. Thanks Laurel. Some of the collections were one person like the trivets and inkwells, but the dolls and whale bone and pewter were multiple collectors. I used to collect candlewick glass and it didn't all go to one person which was sad.

  7. This place reminded me of The House on the Rock in Spring Green, WI. A collection of collections.

    1. We were going to see that when in WI but didn't give ourselves enough time - it's still on the list!

  8. You're in our old neck of the woods. In spring Shelburne Museum has a lilac festival. Your tour brings back great memories. A great place to try a variety of beers in Burlington is the VT Pub House. In Williston there is the VT Tap House which also has a large selection of local beers. Dave was always partial to Switchback who also has a brewery in Burlington. Enjoy VT, you've picked a great time of the year to be there, watch out for the leaf peepers.

    1. So much to see in a very special state. We already can't wait to get back there. The number of bus tours through the small country roads is picking up, but with our CA license plates we can't pretend to be locals ourselves :-)