Preservation and Access: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections

Period of Performance

10/1/2014 - 9/30/2017

Funding Totals

$350,000.00 (approved)
$350,000.00 (awarded)

Protecting Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection: Climate, fire, security, and lighting upgrades for Dorset House

FAIN: PF-50479-14

Shelburne Museum (Shelburne, VT 05482-0010)
Richard L. Kerschner (Project Director: December 2013 to February 2018)

An implementation project to preserve the Shelburne Museum's wildfowl decoy collection, which numbers nearly 1,400 objects and spans more than 150 years of decoy making primarily in New England, Long Island, the New Jersey coast, the Chesapeake, North Carolina's Outer Banks, and the Gulf states. To protect the collections, the museum would improve environmental conditions, security, and fire protection in the 1832 Dorset House, where the decoy collection and related art and artifacts are exhibited and stored.

Support is requested to stabilize and protect the Shelburne Museum Decoy Collection which is considered the finest and most comprehensive collection of decoys in the world. This two-year project is designed to control harmful temperature and humidity fluctuations, mitigate the risk of fire, reduce light exposure, improve security conditions, and improve exhibition and "open storage" conditions to allow better physical and intellectual access for the collection which is housed and exhibited in the historic and elegant Dorset House, built in 1832, that is located on the Museum's grounds. Shelburne Museum will employ a successful holistic approach of performing environmental, security, and fire system upgrades, while simultaneously conducting curatorial research and reinterpretation, exhibit upgrades, object conservation, and planning for programming to increase visitors' accessibility to the collections and their intellectual context.

Media Coverage

Duck Decoy Preservation Among Grant Winners (Media Coverage)
Publication: Burlington Free Press
Date: 7/22/2014

Decoys get their Due as Folk Art Specimens (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Tim Johnson
Publication: Burlington Free Press
Date: 8/23/2014

Birds of a Feather: Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Joanne Calhoun
Publication: Shelburne (VT) News
Date: 12/3/2015
Abstract: This article reviews a major exhibition at Shelburne Museum entiitled "Birds of a Feather" with a specific reference to the NEH grant. Decoys featured in this exhibition will be on permanent display once Dorset House project is completed.

Vermont Exhibition Explores the Unique Allure of Decoys (Review)
Author(s): Sebastian Smee
Publication: The Boston Globe
Date: 1/3/2016
Abstract: Focus on the world-famous decoy collection that will be permanently displayed in Dorset House upon completion of restoration project in 2017.

Associated Products

Birds of a Feather: Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection (Exhibition)
Title: Birds of a Feather: Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection
Curator: Kory Rogers
Abstract: Culled from the Museum’s renowned decoy collection, this exhibition features eighty decoys by master artisans A. Elmer Crowell, Charles “Shang” Wheeler, Albert Laing, and Lemuel T. and Samuel Ward, among others. The exhibition includes thirteen different bird species, ranging from black ducks and Canada geese to swans, herons, and shorebirds. Operating under the principle that “birds of a feather flock together,” decoys are designed to lure game birds into gunning range by physically mimicking waterfowl in safe waters. Carvers of decoys are often hunters themselves, but they are no less naturalists and admirers of the beauty and diversity of their prey. The decoys on exhibition will be permanently displayed in Dorset House after the restoration is completed in 2017. The exhibition ran from 11/21/2015 through 6/19/2016.
Year: 2015

Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Shelburne Museum's Decoy Collection
Abstract: Dr. Denenberg presented to an audience of waterfowl decoy partisans in this Duchess County NY club, referencing the NEH grant in jump-starting the Dorset House project which seeks private funding to complete the project.
Author: Dr. Thomas Denenberg, Director, Shelburne Museum
Date: 5/14/2016
Location: The Tamarack Preserve Millbrook NY