For our last peek at Arts Ed in a New England museum space, it seems fitting to end in the state and museum that first sparked my interest in community engagement and museum education: The Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The Shelburne Museum is ineffably unique, as it is not exactly an art, history, or craft museum, but a delightful medley of seemingly anything and everything. This is apparent even at the most basic level: the Shelburne Museum is not housed in one building, but instead operates of a campus of 39 independently standing structures – including a schoolhouse, covered bridge, antique carousel, and a fully restored 1906 steamboat!
Founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, the museum’s unique identity and massive collection is largely thanks to Mrs. Webb’s vast, diverse aesthetic tastes and interest in the unique style of folk art, American architecture, and design. In effect, she was arguably one of the first collectors of Americana, and employees liken entering the Shelburne campus to taking a step into Electra’s mind.
In addition to being a one-of-a-kind experience in the scope of New England museums, the Shelburne Museum is also deeply rooted in its local community. Perhaps due to Vermont’s inescapable small-town vibe, to the museum’s long standing role as a local school resource, or to its physical position right at a key point on a main local throughway, the Shelburne Museum has long been a fixture of local Vermont life and a regular community leader in cultural and educational enrichment for all.