Sunday, August 21, 2011

Shelburne Museum

The eclectic Shelburne Museum near Burlington Vermont has 39 buildings on 45 acres, most of them historic and relocated from other parts of New England. Some are historic houses and community buildings set up as they would have been in their time,

such as this settlers cottage. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Others are galleries/ exhibition spaces, and not all of them are old. The Kalkin House was built in 2001--the interior was created from 3 trans-oceanic shipping containers. Within was an exhibit of contemporary 3-dimensional paper art. Other buildings exhibited fashion from 1690-2001, Vermont firearms, and landscape paintings.

The founder of the museum, Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), was an early serious collector of folk art. She was responsible for relocating 20 historic buildings to the property. After her death, her children had this house built on the property and relocated six rooms of the Havemeyer Park Avenue apartment to it. Her parents were collectors of European art and there are Degas', Monets, and Cassatts on these walls.

Mrs. Havemeyer had a lighthouse moved to the property which looks very strange on a grassy knoll.

Not as strange as the Ticonderoga, an elegant old steamboat that used to run on Lake Champlain and that has been fully restored.
 A quick geography break for those not familiar with Vermont: Shelburne is the first town south of Burlington, about 45 miles south of Canada and 235 miles northwest of Boston. Outside of the five Great Lakes, Lake Champlain is the largest freshwater lake in the U.S.  The Adirondack Mountains of New York are on the other side of the lake, and to the south of them you can see the Catskill Mountains.

 The sights of the museum include a covered bridge, built in 1845, that was dismantled and moved in 1949,

 a Shaker round barn, a saw mill, Adirondack lodge, school house, general store, 1950 house, and much more. I was there for four hours, and did not see everything.

Some of my favorite things:

The old buildings. All 19th century New England, which is the time and place of most of the antiques I sell--I learn from seeing good examples of the buildings and their furnishings.

the old kitchens

and bedrooms.

this fence woven with sticks,


the extraordinary circus building, which houses a five hundred foot long circus parade, a 4000-piece hand carved circus, many wondrous posters and photographs, and outside of which is an old working carousel.

There is one house filled with antique toys, another with quilts, hatboxes and dioramas (as in the above--I love how detailed the selection of items on his desk is), and one with duck and fish decoys. I see so many bad decoy (and other antique) reproductions that it is a breath of fresh air to see genuine, old, primitive ones.

My favorite place was the stagecoach inn filled with folk art. 

Most poignant moment: a very long cradle made for the elderly and the infirm, a practice originated by the Shakers. It made me think how comforting it would be for someone ill or dying to be rocked in the security of a cradle.

Museum website here. Excellent NY Times article about it here.


  1. Hello Jen:
    We have been absolutely enthralled by this post. You have presented the Shelburne Museum in such beautiful detail and gloriously illustrated that we felt that we were there with you......which is EXACTLY where we should love to be! Clearly a place full of interest and fascinating glimpses of history with a particular focus on Folk Art. We know that we should love it all, but we are sure that it is exhausting to see so much and to assimilate everything one sees.

    Obviously you had a wonderful time, for which we are glad. You work terribly hard and do not get away for many treats so we are really pleased that this trip was everything you had hoped for and more besides.

  2. Wow, what an amazing interesting museum! I've never seen a cradle for the elderly before and didn't know there was such a thing. I particularly liked seeing the inside of the older buildings. And the lighthouse! As soon as I saw it the image of a book I read years ago popped into mind and now I want to read it again. Just like this post, I need to come back and look at it again so intriguing are the photos here.

  3. what a pecouliar and yes as you call it eclectic museum that is! thank you for gining me the opprtunity to" visit "it all the way from my sofa in Norway ; )- i particularly like the lighthouse... mrs. Electra was an extraordinary woman...

  4. Thank you for the tour! I couldn't even say which part I enjoyed most. That round Shaker barn is really something!

  5. Oh wow, this is really amazing! I've never seen anything like it. I like the lighthouse!

  6. Jen,
    What a fabulous place to be lucky enough to visit! Your photos are wonderful! A very interesting place, started by an amazing woman!

  7. wow it is all so amazing

  8. Jen,
    Sorry about that! I seem to never be able to get her address right and I usually double check but I didn't. It's
    It's also under my favs on the sidebar. You really should check out her shop, it's fabulous!

  9. what a delightful place to spend an afternoon. i have never heard of a cradle for the elderly, but i love it.