See Vermont from Above in Shelburne Museum’s Upcoming Exhibition

August 15, 2018
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(Shelburne, Vermont) Mapping an Uneven Country: Bird’s Eye Views of Vermont will be on view in the Colgate Gallery of the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education at Shelburne Museum from November 10, 2018 through March 3, 2019.  The exhibition investigates the popular phenomenon of “perspective” or “bird’s eye” views that that sprang up during the second half of the 19th century through more than three dozen drawn, painted and printed views of the Green Mountain State.

Often created by itinerant painters or roving “Map Men,” these depictions presented orderly visions of growing towns and highlighted civic development, industry, and technological advancements. Mingling facts with a measure of imagination, these stunning panoramas were frequently displayed in homes and businesses and intended to boost commercial and investment interest while also stimulating civic pride.

Vermont’s commercial development was spurred on by the introduction of the Vermont Central Railroad in 1843. As depots sprang up around the state, trains easily facilitated goods and services from businesses in urban centers like Burlington, St. Albans, Brattleboro, Bennington, and Rutland to consumers across the region. Merchandise ranged from agricultural products and livestock to textiles, marble, granite, and slate, and lumber, to specialty manufactures like St. Johnsbury’s Fairbanks Scales and Brattleboro’s Estey Organs.

The earliest views of the state published in the 1840s and 1850s situated audiences atop a small hill in the foreground, providing a convenient vantage point for viewers who wanted to take in the improved yet still pastoral landscape. Later views of towns from the 1880s and 1890s transported viewers higher into the air, allowing for more detailed viewing of the landmarks and gridded streets that created order in a state that had been dubbed a notably “uneven country.”

Exhibition curator Katie Wood Kirchhoff notes, “The questions these views provoke—from ambivalence about burgeoning technologies to border relations between Vermont and Canada to changing perceptions of Vermont’s identity—are especially timely and remind exhibition visitors that the tensions we feel today surrounding the development of our state are not so different from the issues that 19th-century Vermonters attempted to grapple with.”

Featuring towns from Bennington and Burlington to Vergennes and Waterbury, Mapping an Uneven Country explores the creation, marketing, and consumption of 19th-century bird’s eye views and asks how these powerful images worked to shape perceptions of Vermont’s identity for a broad public.

Considering themes like natural resources, commerce, and historic border relations, historic works will be installed alongside select works by contemporary cartographers, allowing exhibition visitors opportunities to explore and question the way(s) that we continue to make sense of Vermont’s evolving landscape.

What: Mapping an Uneven Country: Bird’s Eye Views of Vermont exhibition
When: November 10, 2018 – March 3, 2019
Where: Shelburne Museum, in the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education’s Colgate Gallery
Who: Curated by Katie Wood Kirchhoff


Founded in 1947 by sugar heiress and pioneering folk art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888–1960), Shelburne Museum is the largest art and history museum in northern New England and Vermont’s foremost public resource for visual art and material culture. The museum is now open year-round, with the Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education and Webb Gallery featuring important American paintings by Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Grandma Moses, John Singleton Copley, and many more. For more information, please visit

Shelburne Museum
6000 Shelburne Road or PO Box 10
Shelburne, VT 05482