Wednesday, May 18, 2011

International Museum Day - Shelburne Museum

Today is International Museum Day and, as a lover of cultural heritage institutions, I can't help but reminisce about a museum that has some meaning to my family history pursuits.

My grandfather was not a regular museum-goer. He was an outdoorsy fellow who liked walking through the woods, working with his hands, and tending to the family's substantial plot of land. The idea of being cooped up inside a building looking at art and bric-a-brac didn't really appeal to him. 

There was one museum, however, that we visited when I was a child that he seemed to genuinely appreciate. And it means even more to me now because of his fondness for it.

The Shelburne Museum, located near Lake Champlain in Shelburne, VT, is not a typical museum. It boasts "39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic" on the property, so there is much to see--both indoors and outdoors. My grandfather especially loved the barns on-site and the antique tools and farm equipment. As he looked at the collections, he reflected nostalgically on the good ol' days when farms flourished and peppered the countryside. 

And there was something for everyone there. We kiddos were crazy about the steamboat Ticonderoga. (It seemed so opulent and impressive, especially compared to the unadorned and utilitarian ferry we had taken en route to the museum). We were also drawn to the collection of toys and dolls. (We were children, after all, so that was inevitable).

I have returned to the Shelburne Museum on more than one occasion as an adult and have found something new to appreciate each time. But, above all else, it's the fact that my sweet grandfather once enjoyed the site so much that will keep me going back for years to come.