A happy obsession is in evidence at the Birds of Vermont Museum — home to hundreds of life-sized wooden birds expertly carved by Bob Spear. The loon family alone took him 850 hours to carve and paint. Spear founded Vermont’s first chapter of the National Audubon Society in 1962, and is still carving birds today. Photo: Matthew Thorsen
The original Vermonters — Native American Abenaki — have a voice at the Vermont Folklife Center. So do the Vermont descendents of slaves. With an archive that consists of more than 3900 tapes, the organization aims to document and conserve the state’s cultural heritage, including groups making history today. A recent photo exhibit captured the lives of Mexican dairy farm workers in Addison County.
Best known for its connection with the Underground Railroad, the Rokeby Museum preserves the history of four generations of remarkable Robinsons. Ahead of its time in every way, the family was made up of Quakers, abolitionists and artists. They were also successful farmers. Patriarch Thomas R. Robinson was among the first agriculturalists to import Merino sheep to the U.S. If he were around today, the old man might be raising something equally radical, like llamas. Two of them live across the road from the Rokeby, along with a camel.
Located on the Burlington waterfront, the 2.2 acre ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain features 70 live species, more than 100 interactive experiences, seasonal changing exhibits and events — all exploring the ecology, culture, history, and opportunity for stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin.
The Sheldon Museum, on Middlebury’s town green, serves as both a municipal archive and showcase of 19th-century small-town Vermont life.
The Shelburne Museum: Just do it. Electra Havemeyer Webb’s collection of fine and folk art may be Vermont’s greatest cultural treasure. The “gallery” experience could not be less intimidating. You can walk leisurely between the buildings, where people in period dress act as printers, blacksmiths and apothecaries. Or wander through the staterooms on the lovingly restored passenger steamer S.S. Ticonderoga. In the Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building are some of the museum’s — and the world’s — most precious paintings by Manet, Monet, Degas and Cassat.
The Main Street Museum in White River Junction offers an interesting mix of international and quirky Americana curiosities, such as this summer’s “Tramp and Hobo Symposium.” Want something even stranger? Check out the “Flora and Fauna Collection,” which, according to the museum’s website, represents “invasive species from the infrastructure of an economically marginal Vermont downtown. Our dried cats are not true mummies; they are merely dehydrated.”
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