Bonafide Farm

Shelburne Museum: Part one

October 21st, 2012 § 0

I was really excited to visit the Shelburne Museum because it features all sorts of things that I dig. Folk and decorative art, textiles, handcrafts and much more are on display in a collection of historic buildings, some of which, such as cabins and a lighthouse, had been relocated to the museum grounds.


There’s also a beached steamship, the 220-foot Ticonderoga! It was neat to wander its four levels and be reminded of how classy travel used to be. The interior was fitted with carved wood trim and leaded glass, and most surfaces were plush with upholstery. There were only five overnight rooms on the ship, but to peer in to them I shared the excitement that their occupants must have felt on their adventures. I am on an adventure too!


I was particularly taken with the beauty of this 80-foot-diameter round barn. According to the museum:

It is one of only two dozen built in the state [and] was constructed in East Passumpsic, Vermont in 1901. Round barns, designed for economy of labor, were first built by Massachusetts Shakers in 1826 and re-introduced by a national farm magazine in 1896.

The Round Barn was moved to the Museum in 1985-86. The 9,000-pound upper segment of the silo was flown across the state by helicopter, while the remainder was dismantled and moved on flatbed trucks.


The reconstruction was obviously done by skilled artisans, as evidenced by how the siding was scribed to the rock foundation. I thought that level of care and attention was pretty impressive!


One of my favorite exhibits was the apothecary, which was housed in an old general store building. I was struck by two things: one, how simple and beautiful the space was. It made modern drugstores look like psychotic temples to the twin gods of hypochondria and consumerism. Imagine the last time you went in to a store where there was only one item to cure your particular complaint—I bet you can’t. To my overloaded-with-choice modern mind, this limiting of options seems relaxing.

But I can imagine it from the other side too—and I can see how appealing new products, even if they were snake oil, would have been to people who in theory will always value choice so as to better exercise their individuality.


After taking a herbalism course last year, I was fascinated to see that so many of the remedies in this apothecary were plant-based. I am very familiar with many of the plants I saw, including skullcap, which I’ve relied upon heavily in the last couple of months to ease tension and quiet my racing mind, and arnica, which I liberally use in a cream for bruises and sore muscles.


The original pharmacist’s counter:


What you can only make out part of is the chimney to a hearth where medicines were prepared. Looks a lot like a kitchen, doesn’t it? Seeing this set-up reminded me of some of the speakers I’d heard at the Mother Earth News Fair, as well as my herbalism teachers, and my mom, who in their own ways drummed in to my head that “food is medicine.” I’m totally on board with that idea, but that’s a topic for another post.

Up next, we’ll continue our Shelburne Tour and then head to Burlington for a gorgeous sunset over Lake Champlain!

P.S. This is post number 300 on the Bonafide Blog. Three hundred seems like a big number to me, and I’m proud of myself to have made the time in my life to write about what’s important to me. Just as it takes time to create this blog, it takes your time to read it. And I thank you for following along! Four hundred, here we come!

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