Visiting the progeny in Burlington, Vermont over the weekend we were privileged to have the opportunity to spend some time at the nearby Shelburne Museum on Saturday. Founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb in 1947, it’s an enormous multi-acre complex, a sort of collection of collections, embracing Americana, folk art, history, circus and a dozen others disciplines calculated to tickle my antiquarian fancy. As the former employee of a certain New York art and historical institution, I’d heard of the Shelburne Museum before, but I’d had no idea of the scale. The immense grounds are part of the experience — it’s really more like an amusement park (in size, at any rate) than a museum. In our 2-3 hours we were only able to cover a small portion of the place.
Behind the carousel: the museum’s circus building, an entire structure devoted to circus collections. (Now we understand why the Big Apple Circus used to include Shelburne in their annual tour).
Here is the Kirk Bros Circus, 3500 wooden pieces carved between 1910 and 1956 by Edgar Kirk.
Nearby, the Arnold Circus Parade, comprised of 4,ooo pieces. This, in a long horse-shoe shaped hall containing dozens of photographs, lithographs, posters, and actual carousel horses, wagons and chariots.
We were especially enamored of this Spanish-American War era piece of carousel art depicting Uncle Sam giving the upstart Spain the beat-down William Randolph Hearst felt he so badly deserved. Enjoy the ride, children!
Nearby, the Beach Lodge, a TR style hunting resort full of safari trophies, including stuffed bears (including one that was reportedly bagged by Ms. Webb herself), moose, wapiti, mountain goats, and even a walrus. (Goo goo g’joob!)
Then a steam train, along with a 1915 private rail car called the Grand Isle, a sumptuous Gilded Age conveyance that has hosted many U.S. Presidents. Adjacent is a fully furnished period rail station.
This covered bridge (like all the dozens of historic buildings on the property) was transported to the Shelburne Museum from elsewhere. Looks like they forgot to move the river!
OK, this one was too much: The Ticonderoga, an entire 1906 paddle wheel steamship that used to service Lake Champlain. Every deck is accessible. On board is a 1925 Durant touring car and a Ford truck from around the same period.
Then, the A. Tuckaway General Store and Apothecary Shop!
Here’s what it looked like inside.
And who could forget the the Henry Tilton Lummus Straight Razor Collection? It was all we could do to drag the Mad Marchioness away! Don’t mind me! I’m just fond of turtlenecks from now on!
And a full supply of leeches! A. Tuckaway is proud to satisfy all your leech needs!
Then upstairs we encountered a dentist’s office, doctor’s office, and an optometrist’s shop, all appropriately barbaric and apt to make one appreciative that it is 2015.
In the Stagecoach Inn (circa 1787) we found a crazy thorough folk art collection full of wooden carvings, paintings (I saw a Grandma Moses), tavern signs, cigar store Indians, ship figureheads, weathervanes, duck decoys, snuff boxes, mugs, stoneware, quilts, glass canes, goblets, swan tureens, and of course the William Paley Trivet Collection
This is Jack Tar. At night when it gets dark and you are snug in your bed he will waddle up the stairs and eat you.
And if that isn’t frightening enough, nearby is the Hall of Terrifying Dolls. Well, they don’t actually call it that, but the museum does house enough antique dolls, dollhouses, Victorian toys, automata, creepy clowns, gollywogs and drumming monkeys for approximately 1,100 horror movies.
After this, we had to screw our heads back on, so we headed over to the Museum’s Pizzagelli Center for Art and Education for the tasteful traveling exhibition American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keefe to Rockwell, organized by own Brooklyn Museum. (Look familiar? That’s why!) It’ll be in Shelburne June 13 – September 13.
And a heads up to all circus freaks! Two circus shows at the Shelburne Museum this week! This Friday July 17: Night Circus: info and tickets here , and on Sunday July 19, a family event called Circus-Palooza, info and tickets for that here.
Needless to say, not only do we want to go back and see the REST of this amazing, magical museum, but we also want to see the parts we ALREADY saw again and again and again. In fact, now we want to live there! Perhaps in a berth on the sumptuous Ticonderoga, where I can get a clear shot at the invading army of nocturnal ghost dolls before they come up the gangplank to try and kill us!