Sacred Space: The Shaker Museum’s New Future Offers Opportunities for Embracing Contradictions

October 5, 2022 |

In July, I joined a small group for a tour of the collection of the Shaker Museum in Old Chatham, New York, where we meandered among metal shelves filled with thousands of wooden boxes and benches, baskets and tables, brooms and bureaus, chests and ladder-back chairs, all meticulously catalogued and digitized. Despite the obvious care invested in the objects’ documentation and organization, however, the institution’s old barn and outbuildings are “not appropriate storage for the world’s most significant collection of Shaker material culture,” according to Shaker Museum Executive Director Lacy Schutz. “We just can’t keep [the HVAC system] running anymore,” she said, adding that the facilities aren’t compliant with accessibility standards, and that it would be prohibitively expensive to bring everything up to code.

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