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The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World

June 14, 2014 - January 4, 2015

On June 14, 2014 the Farnsworth Art Museum will open an exhibition entitled The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World. The exhibition of approximately 200 works will run through January 4, 2015 in the museum's Morehouse wing. The exhibition has been organized in partnership with the Shaker Museum / Mount Lebanon in New Lebanon, New York; and the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village Museum in New Gloucester, Maine. (right: Shaving shovel, wood, metal, 52 3/8 inches x 14 3/8 inches x 3 1/3 inches 1950.3485.;Snow Shovel, pine, maple, iron, 56 1/2 inches x 15 3/8 inches x 5 1/8 inches, 1950.3355.1.; Spading Fork, wood, metal, 42 3/4 inches x 8 7/8 inches x 3 3/8 inches, 1950.3201.1 Shovel, Oak, iron, 42 3/8 inches x 16 5/8 inches x 1 7/8 inches, 1952.4656.1; Collection of the Shaker Museum| Mount Lebanon, New Lebanon, New York Photo by Alan LaValle)

Drawn primarily from the collection of the Shaker Museum / Mount Lebanon, the largest, broadest and deepest collection of Shaker material in the world, the show will present a comprehensive look at the religious, social and economic foundations of Shaker life, seen through Shaker-made objects. While the show is a historical overview seen through objects from Mount Lebanon, the spiritual and administrative center of the Shaker world, it importantly also includes a section on the Shakers at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, the last active Shaker community.

The collection at the Shaker Museum and Library / Mount Lebanon consists of more than 60,000 objects spanning more than 200 years of Shaker history. Founded in 1950 as the first museum in the world devoted to the Shakers, it evolved from museum founder John S. Williams' relationship with members of the Mount Lebanon, Canterbury, Hancock and Sabbathday Lake communities and his dedication to preserving the Shakers' legacy. His collection formed the basis of the museum, which has grown significantly since. While objects from its collection have been lent to numerous exhibitions, this is the first major undertaking to focus on pieces from the Mount Lebanon community.

A unique aspect of the exhibition will be a section on Sabbathday Lake and the Shakers in Maine. The Sabbathday Lake collection, museum and library combined exceed 100,000 pieces distributed among seventeen buildings. Founded in 1931, it is the only collection entirely assembled by the Shakers themselves, and stands as the world's largest repository of Maine Shaker heritage. It continues to be directly managed as the educational arm of the only active Shaker Community. The Farnsworth is collaborating with the Community at Sabbathday Lake in the selection of works from its collection, educational programming, and preparation of the catalogue. Rarely, if ever, have the Shakers assumed such a role in a project of this scope to tell their own story.


(above: "Shakers Seeds" boxes, 1861, Maker Unknown, Mount Lebanon, New York Wood, wire, string, leather, metal. Collection of the Shaker Museum| Mount Lebanon, New Lebanon, New York. Photo by Alan LaValle)

The exhibition has been organized in collaboration with David Stocks, President, and Jerry V. Grant, Director of Collections and Research, at the Shaker Museum and Library / Mount Lebanon; and Michael S. Graham, Director, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum; Leonard Brooks, former director, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village Museum; and Brother Arnold Hadd and Sister Frances Carr from Sabbathday Lake. The show will be accompanied by a richly illustrated book entitled The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon the World, published in cooperation with Skira Rizzoli Publishers.



(above: Chairs, c. 1850, Mount Lebanon, New York, Birch, maple, cane, pewter, 42 inches x 18 1/2 inches x 14 1/4 inches, Collection of the Shaker Museum / Mount Lebanon, New Lebanon, New York, 1950. 213.1, Photo by Michael Fredericks)

The opening will be celebrated at a members' preview and reception which will take place on Friday, June 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Lead support for The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World includes the Henry Luce Foundation, The Davis Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor. Exhibition sponsors include Allen Insurance and Financial, Chilton Furniture of Maine, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks, The Grasshopper Shop of Rockland, and Windsor Chairmakers. The primary media sponsor of this exhibition is Maine Home + Design.


(above: Writing Desk, 1883, Elder Henry Green (1844-1931), Alfred, Maine, Butternut, maple; varnish finish, 32 inches x 15 3/4 inches x 62 inches, Collection of the United Society of Shakers, Sabbathday Lake. Photo by Alan LaValle)

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