Friday, January 15, 2016

Windows into Our World

By Ron Wannamaker, Lead Carpenter

In an ongoing effort to show readers what the carpenters and painters do at Shelburne Museum, we plan on monthly updates in the form of this blog.

With 38 buildings and a boat that have fifteen or more windows each, that's a lot of “sash” to maintain. Every window is normally made up of two sash per window, the upper and lower moving parts. This past year we have developed a two tiered approach to addressing the Museum’s windows. The first priority is triage for broken windows like the one above. If we look up and notice glass wiggling around in the wind we grab that one right away. And the second priority is working our way around the other buildings that are prominent to the visitors. In the winter season, when we can’t work outside, we remove as many windows as we can to keep the paint shop a little too busy. We’re also creating sash with animal screening to better disguise all the necessary venting equipment that climate controls our collections.
Rustic Hat and Fragrance transom reglazed.
The sash are brought to the carpentry shop, deglazed (the glass removed), and dismantled if replacement parts are needed. Once they are rebuilt, we move them over to the paint shop for glazing and painting. The painters make them look like (a couple) hundred bucks and then we carpenters pop them back into their window openings.

Diamond Barn sash ready for install and Norton Barn being rebuilt.
As our visitors stroll through the grounds they may notice a dark piece of plywood here and there temporarily keeping out the weather while the team works behind the scenes to save and preserve the historic buildings that house our varied collections. The broken window theory is true; happy windows, happy buildings, happy people.  

As in in most preservation work, doing the job well means no one notices.


Ron Wanamaker has been in the trades as a Preservation Carpenter for 29 years, the last 18 of which he worked in Vermont on many prominent public and private projects. He came to Shelburne Museum in 2014 and has been enjoying his time working on exhibits and the many historic buildings on the grounds. He maintains a shop and private practice in Burlington's historic South End.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Summer Collection Sneak Peek

by Rebecca Hartje, Administrative and Development Assistant

The vast and varied collections on display at Shelburne Museum can seem almost intimidatingly large—but even if you’ve steadfastly combed through every gallery and building in the past, there’s always more to see.  The 50,000 objects on display represent only about half of the total objects in the permanent collection; however, the Museum can’t reasonably show off its entire collections at once due to two main factors: space constraints and conservation concerns.  Pleissner Gallery, for example, houses our collection of paintings by Ogden M. Pleissner, but it only has enough wall-space to hang about 30 of the several hundred paintings in the collection.  Similarly, we only display a fraction of our world-class quilts in an effort to preserve them for posterity.  As objects conservator Nancie Ravenel explains, each quilt can be exposed to a limited amount of light before it starts to degrade, so we periodically remove objects from public display in an effort to “ration their lifetimes” and ensure that “your grandchildren will get to see them.”

Our curators work hard to continually reinterpret the Museum founder, Electra Havemeyer Webb’s vision under the constraints of space and conservation, and every summer they create new rotating exhibitions to display different parts of the collection. Unlike the changing exhibitions in the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education, where you can see both local and international art, the rotating exhibitions highlight objects from the Museum’s own permanent collections. If you want to discover objects from the permanent collection you might never have seen before or that you might’ve overlooked in the past, don’t miss these three exhibitions on view May 1 – October 31.

 Quilts that Made the Grade
Quilt Exhibition from the Permanent Collection: Hat and Fragrance Gallery
 Crazy, applique, log cabin printed, postage stamp, pieced pineapple—this season’s exhibition showcases a variety of quilts among the finest in the collection. Our quilts have been evaluated based on a combination of factors including technique, condition, historical value, and originality of design to determine each quilt’s letter grade, just like the grades you receive in school. Based on these grades and additional size concerns, Assistant Curator Carolyn Bauer has selected predominately grade “A’s” for this exhibition of 27 stellar quilts.

Unknown, Applique Love Apple Quilt, 1850-1860. Cotton, 88 x 86 in. Gift of Electra 
Havemeyer Webb,1959-268; 10-321.

Around the World in Twenty-Six Paintings
Travel with Ogden Pleissner: Pleissner Gallery. Take a pictorial journey to eight states and four countries through this survey of Ogden Pleissner’s paintings from the permanent collection. The exhibition leads you through time in addition to place as many of the works reflect landscapes during and after World War II. Pleissner’s command of light and color creates unique and authentic atmospheres from places as near as Grafton, VT to the faraway canals of Venice.

Thread Bare: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Conserving Floor Coverings
Rug Exhibition from the Permanent Collection: Hat and Fragrance Gallery. Although all the Museum’s objects require special care to ensure they remain in good condition, some objects, particularly textiles, are more fragile than others. The 2015 exhibition features nine rugs from the renowned collection of 19th- and 20th-century floor coverings, conserved as part of a Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant. The exhibition presents the results of treatments for aesthetic issues, like stains and fading, and for stability, like repairing holes. Come check out the progress made thus far to conserve some of the Museum’s most vulnerable objects.

Unknown, Applique Love Apple Quilt, 1850-1860. Cotton, 88 x 86 in. Gift of Electra Havemeyer Webb, 1959-268; 10-321. Photography by Andy Duback.


As the assistant to the executive director and the development team, Rebecca wears many hats at the Museum, from liaising for the Director’s Office, processing memberships, becoming queen of the copier, writing blog posts, and everything in between. She loves writing and editing, learning new skills, and breakfast for dinner.