Monday, July 04, 2011

A Walk in the Park Museum

Never knowing what the satellite reception will be when we move to a new campground, I figured I'd better get started on my blog about the Shelburne Museum. I've been putting off writing this blog simply because there is so much to see and learn at the museum that I don't quite know where to start, or where to end. I'll put some pictures on, give a little explanation and suggest that someday you make the trip to see it yourself. How's that?

Situated on several acres of land a few miles south of Burlington, Vermont the museum was created by Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1947. There are permanent and traveling exhibitions and various collections of artwork and artifacts housed in authentic buildings, barns and cabins that were moved from their original locations specifically to house the many works of art. At each building there are docents to answer questions and explain the history of the building and/or its contents and each person Denny and I found to be extremely knowledgeable and truly interested in the museum. Each employee is rotated on a regular basis so they gain knowledge of all the buildings throughout the complex and each person that we met was very enthusiastic about the museum.

After you pay your $20 entrance fee (look for discount tickets at motels or store--we didn't until afterwards) immediately on your left is the Round Barn.
Currently the round barn houses one of the Paper in 3D exhibitions on the main floor and the second floor is dedicated to Denzel carousel animals (loved this!). I was surprised that the collection of Denzel animals didn't also include a band organ from a carousel to go with the theme, but there you are. The Paper in 3D exhibition is spread over three buildings and explores the use of paper in art and it is amazing what people can do with paper.

Next we wandered down the hill to the circus building which housed two collections of hand carved circus animals and three ringed circus recreations. There was also information on how the staff restores torn posters and revitalizes the original paint and finish on the carousel animals at the museum.Next up was a set of log cabins, one of which housed the "Lock, Stock and Barrel" collection of rifles made by gunsmiths in Vermont. Denny and I aren't necessarily fans of weaponry, but the docent here explained that Vermont gunsmiths were the first to invent the concept of creating interchangeable gun parts. Historically, when rifles were first starting to be built, each gunsmith made all of his own parts to the guns/rifles each time he built one. One of the gunsmiths came up with the idea of creating identical parts so that the rifles could be more easily repaired and built, thus paving the way for future mass production of items such at the Model T Ford.
Our day continued as we wandered building to building, each of which housed a different collection of items. You never knew what you would find when you opened a door and entered a building.
The story of how the founders of the museum arranged to move the steam ferry the "Ticonderoga" proved quite fascinating. There is a film clip on the first deck that shows the work involved; it took the moving crew 65 days to move the Ticonderoga two miles from Lake Champlain to its current position on the museum grounds. You can wander from the belly of the ship to the very top, learning how the ship was operated, seeing the staterooms and fine dining area and getting a view of the surrounding countryside from the upper deck. Your entrance ticket allows you to return on a second consecutive day to wander the museum and that's what we did. There is just too much to absorb in one day. There is a shuttle that will take you around the park and there is a cafe if you get hungry and picnic benches should you choose to bring your own lunch as we did. Of course, we have to have the obligatory goofy tourist picture; Denny has been jailed in North Platte, Nebraska, Yuma, Arizona and now Shelburne, Vermont. As have I.
The horseshoe barn houses a collection of carriages, wagons and sleighs and the annex behind it houses even more of them, including a stage coach on runners for travel in snow and a horse drawn hearse. The Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building houses fine art including paintings by Manet and Monet and sculptures by Remington and Anna Huntington. There are collections of duck decoys, porcelain, toys and dolls, glass, furniture and then there are the current exhibitions like the "High Style" fashion exhibit with clothing designs by Karl Lagerfeld, Carolina Herrera and early pieces by the House of Worth. You will walk away with your head filled with information and tired feet but it's so worth it.

Anyone remember Little Abner's Kickapoo Joy Juice? The museum has a fully stocked replica of an apothecary building with shelves full of original potions, herbal concoctions and tinctures and extracts.

The Stencil House had walls with original stenciling in its rooms:
Another building housed ink wells and snuff boxes and porcelain and household implements including this French made vacuum coffee pot.
I could go on and on about this place but that's enough for one day. This is definitely a "go see it" if you are traveling anywhere near Burlington, Vermont. I wish we had had more time to be in the area as there was a Morgan Horse Museum, miles of shoreline to Lake Champlain, the town and colleges in Burlington itself, chocolate factories, wineries, Ethan Allen's home and much more within a very short distance.

But there was a lobster calling my name......

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