Opened to the public in 1882, the Henry Sheldon Museum is the oldest community-based museum in the country! Henry Luther Sheldon (1821-1907) was born in the area and learned to read by age 3. Music was an important part of family life and he loved to write, keeping a detailed journal most of his life (that has provided invaluable insight into life at the time). His first collection was of autographs of leading authors (he would write to them requesting their autograph). By 1841, he was working at the Post Office while renting a room in the large brick house that is now the museum. He was also the organist at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church...for 34 years. He held other various jobs at local stores and served as a mail agent for the railroad.
When in his 50s, Sheldon found his true calling, collecting. He collected coins and eventually moved on to furniture, paintings and household objects of the state of Vermont, and Addison County in particular. In 1882, Sheldon and a friend purchased the brick lodging house (the Judd-Harris House built in 1829), and he displayed his collections to the public on the second and third floors. After his death in 1907, the museum eventually closed.
In the 1930s, two historians from Middlebury College examined the collections and re-opened the museum with his collections exhibited in a historical home setting. The Sheldon has continued to receive donations of items in the decades since.
Here are some of my favorite pieces from the collection.
Posters of Addison County Fair Sheldon Peck, Mary Parker Peck
1899 and 1900 and Alanson Peck (ca 1824)
Below is a 19th century kitchen with fireplace used for cooking. Also shown are a few of the furniture pieces and clocks from the large museum collection.
The first photo is of a 19th century lady's bedroom. The second is representative of a man's bedroom. There are six original fireplaces with black marble (quarried locally) mantelpieces in the house. The sewing machine is a Wheeler & Wilson's, Button & Eyelet Hole Machine (ca 1863).
The first photo is of a chest used for mail in the first post office in Middlebury. The second is a mail chest used by the railroad.
A child's room, toys, and shoes were displayed in various locations on the second floor.
A Special Exhibit, Draw Me a Story - Tell Me a Tale, is on display through October 15, 2017. It celebrates the group of contemporary children's book authors and artists. A children's (or adult!) reading room is set up with displays of the books and artwork. I really loved this exhibit and felt like sitting down to read a few of the books (but, alas, John and Sadie were waiting for me outside).
I was so glad I took the time to visit this museum. It has a fascinating array of local antiques and folk art items on display. Check it out if you get the opportunity.
For additional information about the museum, click on henrysheldonmuseum.org.