Shelburne Museum’s unparalleled collection of 1,400 wildfowl decoys was established with a 1952 gift of more than 400 superior examples from Joel Barber, a New York City architect, artist, and carver. Barber’s groundbreaking book Wild Fowl Decoys (1934) was the first to identify the importance of decoys as a uniquely American art form.
Since then, the Museum’s decoy collection has grown to be one of the finest and most comprehensive in the country. It includes examples by prominent carvers John Blair, Bill Bowman, Anthony Elmer Crowell, Lee Dudley, Joseph Lincoln, Don Preston, George Warin, Shang Wheeler, and Gus Wilson. Decoys from Maine, Long Island, Chesapeake Bay, Illinois, Quebec, and other regions are exhibited.
Wildfowl decoys are traditionally exhibited in Dorset House; however, that location is currently closed to the public while it undergoes significant upgrades to its heating, cooling, lighting, security, and fire protection systems. This project, designed to bring the conditions in which the decoy collection is stored and displayed up to modern conservation standards, has been supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dorset House will reopen in 2017.