Outside In. Three syllables that capture the summer here at Shelburne Museum. The expression, of course, is drawn from the title of our exhibition William Wegman: Outside In, but in a larger sense it unifies our programming, as it could easily have served as the label for our other project, Harold Weston: Freedom in the Wilds. The fact that we programmed two exhibitions about the role of nature in two artists’ work is more than a coincidence. The pairing represents the alpha and omega of life in Vermont, a place where nature and culture play coequal roles in life.
We think a lot about the question of place here at Shelburne Museum. How did we come to be a museum of 39 buildings on 45 acres tucked between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains? We often search for meaning in our founder’s intentions. Why, for example, did she create an idealized 19th-century New England village in the 1950s, an era of great cultural change? What did she see in the social economy of that earlier period that led her to believe that the past provided an answer to the challenges of the present? What led her to eschew an archaeological or closely historical perspective in service of populating her village with dense collections of the finest examples of American design and ingenuity? Our
answer to these questions—and many others—is her commitment to the people of Vermont, those that came before her, those she knew, and those in her future. In other words, us.
We take seriously our role as stewards of the legacy of Electra Havemeyer Webb. Not only did she believe in the role of the Museum to create community in our brave little state, but she also recognized that Shelburne Museum would serve as an educational institution and economic engine. This year in our annual fund mailing, I reviewed some of my favorite statistics about the Museum: the number of school programs, visitation, and a tally of objects in our care. Above all, however, I am honored by the great number of you who contribute your resources and time to make Shelburne Museum one of the great experiences in our country. I look forward to welcoming you, outside in, this summer.