Shaker artefacts will get a new home in upstate New York

A Shaker bench The Shaker Museum

The Shaker Museum in Chatham, New York, devoted to the culture of the mostly extinct religious sect, has launched a $15m effort to create a 30,000 sq. ft building for its collection, which spans more than 18,000 objects and archival materials.

“Usually when you introduce the topic of Shakers to people, they know two things: that they were celibate and that they made chairs,” Lacy Schutz, the director of the museum, says of the utopian communal society that settled in the US in the 18th century. But the Shakers were renowned for their minimalist design philosophy, she notes, and their objects “are recognised for their innovation, ingenuity and simplicity, telling a wonderful story of their ideals and the highest and best values of America”.

The museum, which manages the Shaker Village in Mount Lebanon, New York, a historic site where the largest congregation of Shakers settled from 1787 to 1947, was founded as a non-profit institution in 1950 by John Williams, an investment broker who travelled to active Shaker communities beginning in the 1930s and collected what he viewed as artefacts of a fading culture.

The institution is the steward of 11 Shaker buildings across 91 acres in Mount Lebanon and holds the most comprehensive collection of objects related to the sect. But the pieces, which are stored on its administrative campus, have not been accessible to the public in more than a decade.

The future Shaker Museum in Chatham, New York

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