Public Comment on Preserving the Decoy Collection
Dorset House is closed for the season while Conservation and Curatorial staff evaluate the gallery and decoy installations. Shelburne’s world-renowned wildfowl decoys are housed in Dorset House. The house was built about 1832 in East Dorset, Vermont and is an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture, popular in 19th-century America. Dorset House’s 2½-story front-gable main block is flanked by cross-gable wings that give the building classical balance and symmetry. The façade is dominated by a massive cornice, and marble slabs are used as a veneer for the foundation and porches. The house was dismantled and moved to the Museum in 1953 to serve as exhibit space for the decoy collection.
Regarding the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Section 106 Review of Shelburne Museum’s Project to Preserve Decoy Collection
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded the Shelburne Museum (the Museum) a grant to preserve its wildfowl decoy collection by improving the environmental conditions under which it is stored and exhibited. NEH is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. This public notice is issued as part of NEH’s responsibilities under 36 C.F.R. Part 800, the regulations which implement Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, as amended, 16 U.S.C. § 470. NEH, a funding agency, is required by regulation to identify and assess the effects of any proposed actions on historic properties. If any proposed action will have an adverse effect on historic resources, NEH works with the appropriate parties to seek ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate any adverse effects. Additionally, the Section 106 regulations require NEH to consider the views of the public on preservation issues when making final decisions that affect historic properties.
In this grant application, the Museum proposed to improve the environment for the decoy collections that are exhibited and stored in the Dorset House by:
- Installing insulation and a simple home heating and cooling system;
- Rewiring the building to reduce fire risks;
- Eliminating moisture infiltration into the house with interior perimeter drainage; and
- Upgrading lighting, security, and fire detection and suppression systems.
The Shelburne Museum, founded in 1947, holds collections of American folk art and material culture exhibited and stored in multiple buildings across its 45-acre site. The decoy collection is displayed in the Dorset House, which was built in 1832 by Welcome Allen of East Dorset, VT. The house is an example of Greek Revival architecture with a façade dominated by a massive cornice, and with slabs of marble serving as the foundation and porches. Its 2½-story front-gable main block is flanked by cross-gabled wings that give the building classical balance and symmetry. In 1953, the museum’s founder bought Dorset House, had it dismantled, and moved it to the Museum grounds to serve as exhibit space for the decoy collection. Although the Dorset House is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is architecturally significant. It is also one of a collection of buildings that were relocated to the Museum site for preservation and interpretation, and in this context, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, in a letter dated October 28, 2014, noted that “the museum as a whole may be eligible for listing in the National Register as a historic district.”
In this same letter, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation wrote: “The Division has reviewed the project narrative and work plan and we understand that efforts will be made to ensure that alterations will be minimally visible to the public while also ensuring that the buildings and the collections housed therein are maintained in the appropriate environment. All of the proposed work is in keeping with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards and will not have any direct or indirect adverse effects on the Dorset House or the Shelburne Museum complex. In addition, there is no ground disturbance proposed for this project and therefore no concerns regarding impacts to archaeological resources.
Therefore, based on our review of the proposed Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant project, it is our opinion and recommendation that the proposed undertaking will have No Adverse Effect on historic resources.”
As required by Section 106, NEH is providing the public with information about the heating and mechanical systems upgrade project, as well as an opportunity to comment on any knowledge of, or concerns with, historic properties in the proposed project area, and issues relating to the project’s potential effects on historic properties. Comments may be submitted to the NEH by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, Constitution Center, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20506. The deadline for submitting comments is December 1, 2014.