Plain, Simple and Painstaking: Preserving a Village, One Paperclip at a Time

Preservation has been central to the mission of Shaker Village from the time of its incorporation in 1961 and has been an ongoing effort ever since. Because the Shakers were practitioners of preservation themselves, Shaker Village is fortunate to have surviving portions of the Shakers’ material culture. The documents, artifacts, fences, gravestones, buildings and barns, which are now under our stewardship, require attention, care and frequent preservation. From major rehabilitation projects like the upcoming work planned for the 1824 Centre Family Dwelling and 1820 Meeting House, replacing the roof and renovating the interior of the Carpenters’ Shop and restoring the exterior of West Family Wash House to housing sensitive items of the Collection in a climate-controlled storage facility, at Shaker Village, preservation is always present and always at work.

For loftier undertakings, we may bring in consultants to ensure preservation success; but the day-to-day preservation of the Village’s 3-dimensional and archival materials lies in the hands of our Collections staff. Things like sorting and rehousing piles of newspapers in acid-free boxes, using cloth tape to secure detached book covers to their bindings, removing sticky-notes from book pages, ensuring 3-dimensional objects are stored up off the ground on shelves and platforms, laying textiles flat in secure, tissue-lined cabinets and monitoring objects for pests and mold are all a part of preserving the history of the Shakers.

 

See an original copy of The Manifesto on display in the East Family Wash House as a part of our Shaker Modern exhibit.

But, the preservation of treasured materials isn’t reserved strictly to the professionals: it’s something many folks do every day without even realizing it!

You might not think about it at the time, but when you do something as simple as organize bills or receipts in a filing cabinet, you’re doing something to preserve them for when you may need them down the road. Believe it or not, that’s PRESERVATION@WORK!

Whether it be for the coming months, years or generations, we all have things we’d like to keep for the future. Here are some ways you can put preservation to work in your own life:

  • Keep documents and artifacts in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight—not in the basement or attic where temperature and humidity can fluctuate with the seasons.
  • Avoid grouping or marking documents using metal paperclips, rubber bands, staples, tape, sticky-notes or dog-earring. While actions like this may seem harmless at the time, they can be damaging to the items you’re trying to preserve. Instead, if documents need to be grouped or marked, use plastic paper clips or acid-free paper and folders.
  • Something as simple as covering furniture with a sheet, quilt or moving blanket can help preserve 3-dimensional objects while in storage.
  • Refrain from sealing photographs, newspaper articles and other paper documents in lamination, non-archival page-protectors or photo sleeves. These types of plastics are more harmful than helpful and will actually result in a more rapid deterioration of what you’re trying to save.
  • Like living creatures, documents and objects need space and room to breathe. Never try to cram items into envelopes, folders, boxes, shelves or tight spaces. Give documents and objects ample space in their storage locations.
  • Less is more. The less you access, handle and use your prized books, documents, artifacts, textiles, furniture and memorabilia, the more time you and future generations of your family will have with them. While handling rare and special items for reference, research and display, it’s best to do so with care, caution and infrequency to ensure their longevity.

Do you have a favorite outfit you just can’t seem to part with? The Shakers did, too! Come see a dress that was rehabilitated over the years by the Shaker who wore it on display in the East Family Wash House as a part of our Shaker Modern exhibit.

Preservation can be painstaking—sometimes a matter of replacing one paperclip at a time. But whether you’re a preservation pupil or pro, it’s often the basics that end up making the greatest difference.


Take part in our history! Join us June 3 to celebrate, as we kick off our largest preservation project since the 1960s. Tour the buildings, speak with the project’s architects and learn about our grant-funded, multi-phase effort to preserve, protect and interpret the Village’s spiritual center.

Make a difference! No matter how big or small, your gift can make a difference. Help us preserve Shaker Village by giving today! 


Emálee Krulish, Archivist

The Face of the Newborn Year

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The presence of babies isn’t something you would expect to find in the records of a Shaker archive, and yet that’s precisely what we find in The Collections here.

Photographs of Shaker babies are few and far between, but we are privileged to have a handful of infant and toddler photographs in our archives. Some of the photographs, which were on display in the Shaker Selfies Exhibit last fall, show Pleasant Hill Shakers holding and posing with babies. Who were these babies, and how did they come to be in this community?

While not as much is known about the lives of babies and young children at Pleasant Hill as we would like, research is ongoing to discover more about the lives of Shaker youth. Though the Shakers didn’t believe in marrying and having children themselves, they didn’t necessarily condemn those outside the Shaker faith for doing so. After all, the offspring and orphans of others often became their wards, protégés and converts.

Shakers were known by their neighbors for their upstanding education system and elevated quality of life, which for some parents was more than they could offer their children at home. Such was the case for one desperate mother who, on a cold day in March 1865, left her newborn infant on the West Family milk bench. While the infant was “very neatly” dressed when discovered by the cow boy, the mother of the abandoned child professed she could not take care of the baby, thus leaving it to be provided for by the Shakers.

As research currently stands, more than 80 babies were present at Pleasant Hill between 1806 and 1889—a number that is still growing as names and stories of Shakers continue to be discovered every day in the archives.

Of the babies who appear in the Shaker record books within their first days or months of life, we know of four who were born here:

  • Love Monfort and Malinda Tyson had the unique experience of being born, raised and buried in a Shaker community. The baby girls were born at Pleasant Hill just one month apart—Love came first on November 25, 1809, and Malinda followed a month later on Christmas Day. Love’s mother, Peggy, came to the community with her husband, Jacob, when she was seven months pregnant, while Malinda’s mother, Anna, strolled back into the village just days before giving birth.2 Both girls’ fathers ultimately left Pleasant Hill, but the girls and their mothers remained in the village until their deaths.
  • More than a month after coming to Pleasant Hill in October 1810, Rachel Monfort Voris gave birth to Hortincy Voris. Although her little girl ultimately left the community in 1829, Rachel and her husband, John, stayed and contributed to the community for the rest of their lives.
  • As a widowed mother of five, Jane McBride came to Pleasant Hill three months pregnant with daughter Lucy Smith McBride, who was born at the village September 30, 1831. By the time she died in 1856, all of Jane’s children had left her—all except Lucy, who remained with the Shakers another 10 years until July 8, 1866, when she ran away with Daniel Perrow, a fellow Shaker whom she went on to marry and have three children.

Beyond photographs and journal articles in the archives, evidence of babies at Pleasant Hill extends into our 3-D collection, where we find two infant and one adult-size cradles. The long cradle would have allowed for more than one infant to be rocked at once, but also would’ve been used to comfort ill and aged adults.

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Stories like this are being discovered here every day.

With building restorations in The Historic Centre, new trails on The Preserve, innovative programs on The River, fresh crop rotations on The Farm and new recipes at the Trustees’ Table, it’s an exciting time to be at Shaker Village.

This year, and in the years to come, as we continue to work to inspire generations through discovery by sharing the legacies of the Kentucky Shakers, we hope you’ll explore Shaker Village for yourself, discover its stories and be inspired to do great things.

“Is this world any better for our having lived…? We can hope so; and in the peace thereof… look on the next page to hail with joy the face of the newborn year.” —S.A. Neale, The Shaker Manifesto, December 1879


1 The markings on the verso of this photograph postcard date it anywhere from 1918-1930. Pleasant Hill dissolved as an active community in 1910, which leaves us to deduce that this baby was not raised in the Shaker faith. She was, however, related to the Pennebaker family of Pleasant Hill, which is why her photograph appears in The Collections.

2 Anna Tyson and her husband, Joab, had first arrived at Pleasant Hill in September 1808, but when spring came, the journals tell us Joab “took his wife and children off by force.” When Anna returned to the village in December 1809, she was nine months pregnant with Malinda. 


New stories, new programs, new projects, New Year. Check out this year’s Events Calendar for new ways you can experience Shaker Village in 2017!

Emálee KrulishArchivist

Those Who Served

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The Shakers believed in practicing non-violence and abstention from war, or pacifism, which makes images like this—an immigrant Shaker in military uniform—exceptional archival pieces. Some men, like Rudolph Gottfried Zollinger (1), came to Pleasant Hill after having served with a local militia or in a military engagement, while others who were already in union with the Shakers left the community to muster with the ranks once war broke out. Some of these men reunited with the Shakers once the fighting stopped, while others chose not to return to Pleasant Hill.

From our records, we’re aware of at least 27 Pleasant Hill Shakers who served in military engagements spanning the French and Indian War, American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, as well as a few foreign wars.

This Veterans Day we pause to honor all who have served, including our Shaker veterans.

Say “thank you” to a veteran in your community!


Learn about hand-colored photographs and “Shakers in Color” in our Shaker Selfies exhibit on view in Centre Family.

Interested in doing research about Shaker veterans or immigrants? Consider applying for our research fellowship


Emálee KrulishArchivist

Pleasant Hill Personalities

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The legacy of the Pleasant Hill Shaker community has often been assessed exclusively through their material culture.  However, each physical item is inseparable from the people who used these items while alive.  During its century of existence as a Shaker community, more than 2,000 people called Pleasant Hill home – each with a unique background, experience, personality, set of quirks, hopes, dreams, desires and reasons for being a part of this endeavor.  It’s this uniqueness that makes their accomplishments so striking.  They were a completely un-relatable group of people who were all drawn for some reason to the community.  And they all, in some way, helped to make history.

Meet some of the Pleasant Hill Shakers:

  • Mary Settles, a single woman who arrived with two small children.  Later in life, she was described as one whose “personality permeated the entire house,” as she engaged visitors on subjects ranging from Shaker theology to American politics.
  • William Pennebaker arrived as an orphan who survived the death of his parents and was brought by extended family members to live with the Shakers, with whom he spent the remaining 73 years of his life!  He was described as “an upright, truthful man, quiet and peaceable in his demeanor.” Yet he must have also had a big personality that clashed with others, as he was at one time engaged in a long feud that culminated in his assault by other members of the community – and resulted in the accidental wounding of one of his attackers!
  • William S. Byrd was noted as a person of “honourable standing,” – he was “a descendant of the prestigious Byrd family of Virginia, distinguished for more than four generations by its wealth, prominence, and leadership in American society” (quoted in Stephen J. Stein, Letters from a Young Shaker, p.1).
  • Napoleon Brown served in the Union army during the Civil War, and following the war somehow found his way to Pleasant Hill.  Shortly thereafter, he was placed in the local lunatic asylum.  Whatever his ailment was, he got it together, and by the end of the same year was back and contributing to the community in a meaningful manner.
  • Jonah Crutcher was one of multiple African American members with a fascinating story:  “Today we purchased Jonas Crutcher, a colored man, who has been a Believer about 19 years, we keeping him hired here to accommodate him for that purpose, while his owners retained him as a slave; and now to prevent them from dragging him away we have purchased him that he may enjoy the privilege of being one of the brethren on equal terms with the rest of us” (January 4, 1859).  Upon his death, it was noted of this former slave that “He was much respected & beloved in the family where he resided, which was not misplaced, for he was worthy.” (September 6, 1861)
  • J. R. Bryant, the picture of courage, showed great intestinal fortitude when he stared down the barrel of a Confederate soldier’s gun, and had bullets whizzing by his head during a guerilla raid on the community…(which he did to secure the safety of his brethren).
  • John B. Shain, a strict vegetarian, advocated exercise and “free use of water both drinking and bathing.”  He lived until the ripe old age of 92.
  • Micajah Burnett was a man of superior intellect and was described as “the principal architect of this village.” He was not only an intelligent person, but also a hard worker, who at the age of 78 was going on trading trips as far away as New Orleans.
  • Kitty Jane Ryan, among others, enjoyed the occasional break from a hard day of work.  She reported one evening that “the Sisters went to the West Pond to see the brethren skate.  We had a very amusing time, we sit in chairs and sailed over the pond like lightning, assisted by the brethren who skate…” (January 6, 1860).
  • Benjamin Dunlavy, a man who wielded a pen as well as anyone, appears to have had quite the dramatic tendency – even when reporting something as straightforward as the weather: “With a mild, pleasant evening, such as we have enjoyed the past week, the thermometer at 50° at dark, the old year was gliding out almost as gentle as the balmy zephyrs of May – When Lo, & Behold! Old Boreas with his northern hordes, made a sudden dash upon the sunny South, completely surprising her principal Chief, (Mercury,) who was so shocked at the humiliating disaster, that his spirits made a sudden plunge into despondency, and continued the descent for about twelve hours, making 60 degrees at one leap, & was found 8 degrees below zero at sunrise this morning…” (January 1, 1864).
  • Henry Daily, a man who might very well have been village curmudgeon: “The Centre Family…have Andrew Bloomberg a Swede for second Elder & he has a dog following him wherever he goes…This is not according to Shakerism but belong without…If we all had a dog we would all starve before spring since we have very little to live on & cannot afford a dog for each member in the Society.  The dog is a perfect nuisance anyhow and them that keep them are no better certain.” (September 20, 1887)

What brought a single mother, an orphan, an aristocrat, a former soldier with mental instability, a health nut, a drama queen and a guy who didn’t like dogs together in one place?  If there was a reason beyond religious conviction, we will never know for sure.  But one thing is for sure about this motley crew: it isn’t exactly the kind of group you would assemble if you needed to save the world.  And yet, they created and maintained their own amazing world at Pleasant Hill.

Who do you relate to most? See personalities like these and more in our Shaker Selfies exhibit on view now in Centre Family!


Aaron Genton is the collections manager. A love of history led him to study and work in the field….

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.

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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