Billy Rankin, VP of Public Programming and Organizational Strategy
Have you visited Shaker Village in the last few years? If so, the fact that we’ve made BIG changes in how we interpret the history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is no surprise. For those who need a recap, this article is a good primer!
The history of the Pleasant Hill Shakers is layered, diverse, and oftentimes surprising. We want our interpretation to share those qualities!
To achieve that goal we use exhibits, workshops, multimedia content, demonstrations, tours…well, LOTS of methods. Every visitor comes with their own perspectives and learning styles. We build experiences to connect to each of them.
Something New is in the Works
This summer a new experience is coming to Shaker Village. We thought it would be neat to give you a monthly glimpse behind the scenes as we develop this exhibition on…economics!
Okay. I know. Economics isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, right?
But that’s where our incredible interpretive team comes in. You see, it is actually really interesting to consider how a communal society that didn’t believe in personal possessions got so darn good at making and selling things to the public.
And there are many more layers to this story that need peeling back.
For example: How did gender equality in Shaker society play into their business operations? Did the Pleasant Hill Shakers have any connection to enslaved labor? What happened when their population dwindled and more non-Shakers were making some “Shaker” products than Shakers themselves?
And perhaps the most important question of all: What can we, who live in an ultra-modern order everything online “I don’t care where it comes from as long as it’s convenient” global marketplace, possibly learn from the economy of a small, agrarian village?
These questions and more will be addressed when Local Economies, Global Impacts opens this summer!
Developing a New Exhibit
Local Economies, Global Impacts is funded in part through a Museums for America matching grant, administered by the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
The 1845 East Family Brethren’s Shop and the 1855 East Family Sisters’ Shop will host the new exhibition. Each were important workshops, and offered other unique contributions to the economy of the village.
With the support of this grant Shaker Village has been able to conduct valuable new research about the economics of the Pleasant Hill Shakers that will come alive as part of the exhibit.
Guests will learn about the village trustees, trading deacons and office sisters. The exhibit will open a new window into the operation of mills, the management of natural resources, the work that happened in Shaker workshops, the routes travelled by trading deacons along roads and waterways, and the stories of the men and women who put their hands to work to sustain their community’s economy.
Local Economies, Global Impacts is currently in an early design phase, where we draft narrative flow within each building, and plan methods for sharing each portion of the content. Artifact displays, tactile interactives, murals, multimedia content and other methods are being fit together in the plan like an integrated puzzle.
Over the next two months we will finalize our designs, write the final content and produce graphics. Then we begin fabrication, followed by installation.
We hope you’ll come along for the ride with us each month as we update our progress. This summer, when you visit the exhibit, you’ll feel like you were there to help create it!