From the Archivist

There’s something special about October at Shaker Village! From the moment you step onto the property, you can sense it—something wonderful is afoot. Is it the pumpkins, cornstalks and hay bales scattered about? Maybe it’s the tractor-drawn hayrides, or the eerie tales shared during Spirit Stroll’s. Or perhaps it’s the anticipation of Trick-or-Treating in the Village.

While all of these things make October a bewitching month to visit Shaker Village, October is a special month for another reason – it’s American Archives Month!

To kick off the celebration, the collection staff hosted an Open House of our archive facility and library today. It gave us an opportunity to update Village staff about the work being done to preserve, arrange and provide greater access to the site’s archival collection.


Curious about our collection? Check out our Facebook page to see exclusive photos and stories about items in our archives throughout the month of October.

Want to know more about the work of an archivist? October 5th is Ask an Archivist Day. Hashtag #askanarchivist to @shakervillageky on Twitter to ask our archivist questions about the collection, the work and the facility of our archives.

Interested in researching with us? Consider applying for a research fellowship.

Emálee Krulish, Archivist

Hair-raising History


Tales of lunacy, danger, persecution, brawls and even death were recorded in harrowing detail by the Pleasant Hill Shakers throughout their time here. Some of the most spellbinding accounts were communicated to living Shakers by the deceased. That’s right—messages from the dead. These other-world connections were shared by “inspired instruments” who relayed messages from the departed in the form of letters.

This spectral activity is just one of many expressions of spiritualism which swept through Shaker communities from the late 1830s until the mid-1850s. Amongst the Shakers, this period was known as the Era of Manifestations; however this spiritual swell preluded, and briefly corresponded with, an even larger movement of spiritualism which captivated the nation with claims of spirit communication until the 1920s.

So while you won’t find ghastly ghost tours at Shaker Village, we think you’ll find something far more gripping and mystical—the spirit of the Shakers. Take a lantern-led Spirit Stroll every Friday and Saturday night through October and discover the spirit of the Shakers for yourself!

Pausing for Thought at Shaker Village

We have exciting news! For the first time in its series history, Live From Lincoln Center takes its show on the road, presenting performances by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (CMS) filmed right here in 2015. Live From Lincoln Center’s “Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village” will air tonight, Friday, September 9, at 9:30 pm on PBS.

We are thrilled to present our 11th annual Chamber Music Festival of Bluegrass in partnership with CMS artistic directors David Finckel and Wu Han in May 2017.  In anticipation of tonight’s big premier, Finckel shares his thoughts about the Festival:

With the sun’s warm rays raking the pasture to my left, I watch two men – one from France carrying a violin, and one from New York carrying a viola – ascend the side staircase to perform the first concert of the Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass. I can’t believe I sat here exactly ten years ago and did the same thing: yes, this is the tenth anniversary season of a now-historic partnership between Shaker Village and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

When a gentleman named George Foreman (no, not the prizefighter, but the former director of performing arts at Centre College in Danville) and I grabbed a bite to eat together some twelve years ago in an Applebee’s, George proposed the idea of a chamber music festival in a nearby Shaker village. Having been an American antiques aficionado all my life, and a particular fan of Shaker furniture and architecture, it took very little work to imagine the setting. A trip to the village to look at the tobacco barn which was proposed for the concerts confirmed the viability of the project, and just like that, we were off on the always-wild and perilous ride of a performing arts startup.

During the first critical ten years, the trustees of Shaker Village took ownership of the festival and truly made it an integral part of their mission. The Village’s entire staff, from cooks to groundskeepers to carpenters, now know us, and we know them. When we return here each May, we reconnect with our Kentucky family. It is a truly joyous time.

I’m sure that as the Village was considering the move to formally adopt this festival, the question must have come up as to how the culture of chamber music would fit into and connect with that of the Shakers. The Shakers, from what I’ve learned, were apparently not big on music, save for hymns. So how would five concerts in a weekend filled with music by Austrians, Russians, Germans, French, Norwegians (among others) composed over the last four hundred years, and performed by musicians hailing from some eighteen different countries, find an appropriate place in a village built with such a clear and strong mission of its own? This question kept me up at night, a bit.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, it didn’t take me long to come to a conclusion that what we were going to do did indeed align with so much of what this miraculous place is all about. I’m not prepared to categorically state that playing classical music is a faith-based profession; however, there is not a serious musician I know who does not sense working for a higher authority. For us performers, that father figure is always the composer; we are on the stage to represent the great geniuses of our art. And for those composers, from where did this great music come? I’m equally sure that each of them would likely characterize themselves as simply vessels, through which divine inspirations found their way to ink and paper. Indeed, the music we play is imbued with such timeless greatness that we freely admit: it is much better than it can ever actually be played. We performers are therefore on an endless, yet joyful quest, in search of an ever-better interpretation, one more compelling, beautiful, and fulfilling of the composer’s dream.

On the Dixie Belle

2016 Chamber Music Festival musicians enjoy an evening on The Dixie Belle Riverboat at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

While ruminating on potential paths of logic for our residency in Shaker Village, a further turn of thought opened up another perspective: that of the composer. Many of the giants of our art – Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms – never made it to the New World. But one of them, the Czech master Antonín Dvořák, did come to America in the 1890’s, summoned to head the new National Conservatory in New York and to assist our nation in finding its own musical voice (American composers had been imitating European styles since the 18th century). Dvořák found roots for a distinctly American tradition in the music and dances of African and Native Americans, imbuing his now-iconic works composed here with genuine American spirit. I believe that not only Dvořák, but all of his mighty predecessors would have not only been fascinated by and admiring of the Shakers, but might well have composed music inspired by their spiritual principles and incomparable work ethic

My assumption – that composers long gone, who never set foot in America, would be thrilled that their music was being played on such storied ground – seals my personal case for feeling that when I come here, I come not to intrude, but to be “kindly welcomed” and to contribute to this place art which extols decency, was created through both divine inspiration and plenty of hard work, and like this place, has stood the test of time, existing today with endless energy, relevance, and beauty.

David Finckel, Artistic Director, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Live From Lincoln Center’s “Simple Gifts: The Chamber Music Society at Shaker Village” will air tonight, September 9, 2016, at 9:30pm on PBS. Click here to learn more.

Pre-order the Simple Gifts CD >>

Save the Monarchs


Each fall, hundreds of millions of monarch butterflies migrate from the United States to warmer southern regions. The monarch migration is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, yet it is threatened by habitat loss. The Preserve serves as a giant Monarch Waystation, providing wildflowers and other resources necessary for monarchs to breed in the spring and summer and feed during their fall migration.

Monarch butterfly ULJ157, tagged at the Village in September 2015 traveled approximately 2,000 miles to El Rosario, Mexico where it was recaptured in March 2016. Monarch butterflies migrate from Mexico to as far north as Canada in the spring and then back south again in the fall. By tagging these amazing creatures, guests at Shaker Village contribute to international research efforts aimed at preserving this declining species. The milkweed and other plants found throughout the restored native prairie act as a giant butterfly waystation for monarchs and hundreds of other pollinators. We are thrilled that one of our tagged butterflies made it back south where the journey started all over again this spring.

This month at Shaker Village, join us for Spirit Strolls, HarvestFest, a new photography exhibit and much more! Wanna help save the butterflies? Check out our Monarch Butterfly Tagging Workshop on Sept. 17 and 18.