What a whirlwind month of travel! My classmates and I just returned from a week-long excursion to Vermont and Montreal, Canada. This is the last of three field trips that are integrated into the curriculum here at the Cooperstown Graduate Program. My first year we went to Boston for a week in the fall and New York City for a week in the spring. Experiencing the museums, food, music, and scenery of a new place has been a great way to explore future city options, connect with classmates, and learn more about the profession. This was my first time to Vermont and I had heard nothing but amazing things. We ventured to the Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms, which both proved to be wonderful learning experiences.
Shelburne Museum, located in Burlington, is quite an oddity. Over 150,000 pieces are exhibited in an outdoor setting of 39 exhibition buildings, 25 of which are historic and were moved to the Museum grounds. Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), a wealthy heiress, essentially created a collection of collections. We saw everything from an exhibit about robots to a full sized steam boat! Do you like impressionism? Folk art? Food molds? Pewter? Circus figures? Gardens? Historic buildings? Dolls? She collected them all! A classmate of mine insisted that when a person is poor they are a hoarder, but when a person is rich – they just get their own museum! An in-cohesive purpose and poor definition of place (are they an art museum? history? theme park?) led to a feeling of overall confusion for a lot of the group.
Fortunately, our visit to Shelburne Farms helped me to narrow in on Shelburne Museum’s biggest problem – lack of a mission. The museum and the farm share a name but not much else! The Farm, an outdoor museum and agricultural education center is popular with the public and has grown into a booming business and cultural resource for the surrounding community. They even make and sell their own cheese! Dairy delicacies, 8 miles of walking trails, an interactive children’s barn, and a welcome center offer experiences for both individuals and families. We spent the day exploring the grounds, including the Inn, which was originally the 19th-century country home of Dr. William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb. They have now turned the home, on the shores of Lake Champlain, into an inn with 24 rooms and a restaurant that serves local food from the gardens on the grounds.
The mission of the organization is to cultivate a conservation ethic for a sustainable future. Unlike the museum down the road, the farm’s mission is not only known by all the staff members but is the focus for all ventures that take place on and off the site. Every person that we met was passionate about the work that they were doing and seemed thrilled to be a part of a team of people who care so much! It was so refreshing to see actual artifacts being used for their intended purposes in the Inn and to eat a meal that was grown on the property and prepared with the mission on hand. The gardeners even offer a food share plan for all full time staff members. Each week ever person’s box is filled with in season fruits, veggies, meats, cheeses, and eggs! Not only does this keep the staff motivated and loyal, it furthers the mission of conservation and local sustainability.
As we got on the road to head north, I couldn’t help but think that Vermont and I could get along. Working at a place that has such a sense of purpose and which is located in such an idyllic setting would be a dream come true. But, whether it’s Vermont or Las Vegas – I can now see that being at an institution with a group of people who care deeply about a sense of purpose and a greater goal is a priority for me. Field trip success!
More to come of my Montreal adventures!