Past Exhibits at the Museum

A New American Globe: James Wilson of Vermont

July 2022-June 2023, National Life Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

James Wilson of Bradford created the first commercially available globes in America. Beginning in 1810, he produced and sold terrestrial and celestial globes for home and classroom use, advertising them as superior American-made products. Wilson's path to globemaking was far from obvious, and he has been celebrated as a unique Vermont genius.

How much of what we know about him is anecdotal and hearsay, and how much is based in close examination of quality archival sources?

The Vermont Common Cracker

July 2022-January 2023, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

For just about the entire 19th century the simple common cracker was an important staple of the northern New England diet. Though often described as dry and tasteless, many old time Vermonters enjoyed a Sunday night crackers and milk fix. It carried many names, such as the Montpelier Cracker, Cross Cracker, St. Johnsbury Cracker, and just plain old Vermont Cracker. Common Cracker-The Exhibit explores the fascinating history of just what a common cracker is, how they were made, advertised and sold, and the many Vermont bakeries that produced them. Created by the Montpelier Historical Society.

The Catamount in Vermont

July 2021-July 2022, National Life Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

The catamount has long been a symbol of Vermont. This new exhibit explores the history of the catamount through the lenses of art, science, and culture.

The Voices of St. Joseph's Orphanage

February 2022-July 2022, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

The St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Burlington was home to more than 13,000 children from 1854 to1974. Although the Catholic-run institution was held in high regard in the community, accounts began to emerge in the 1990s from scores of former orphanage residents describing abuse at the hand of nuns and other clerical personnel. Few were believed at first, but these ex-orphans persevered, ultimately winning validation for the harm done to them and working for laws protecting vulnerable children in Vermont. This is the story of these former orphans, now known as the Voices of St. Joseph, and their remarkable and enduring accomplishments. 

WPA prints from the T.W. Wood Gallery

July 2020-March 2021, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

The T. W. Wood Gallery is the repository for Vermont's portion of the Federal WPA collection. In addition to a variety of laborers, over 40,000 artists and other talented workers were employed through the WPA in the United States for art, music, theatre, and literature projects.

When Women Lead

July 2020-Spring 2021, National Life Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Over fifty years post women's suffrage, a Vermont governor, not a first lady, wore a gown to an inauguration. 

Throughout her career, former Vermont Governor, Madeline Kunin, broke this and many other barriers for women in politics. Governor Kunin recently donated her three inaugural gowns to the Vermont Historical Society. They are on view, alongside an exploration of Kunin's life and political career, in the National Life Gallery at the Vermont History Museum. 

Clothing and textiles can be richly symbolic objects, and Kunin’s gowns are no exception. Clothing worn to public events by female politicians is still a subject of intense interest and debate. Kunin put it succinctly: “When women lead, they have to think about what to wear.”

woman sitting on rock with building behindThe Dames

February-July 2020, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

For many people, ancestral lineage organizations such as the Colonial Dames are a world apart. We might be intrigued by their celebration of family and colonial history, patriotic service, and shared values—or, alternately, made uncomfortable by perceptions of elitism surrounding their lineage-based membership. But who are these women—these Dames? This exhibit is a collection of oral history recordings and photographic portraits created by the Vermont Folklife Center featuring thirteen members of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Vermont.

two chairs in galleryThe Sheldon Relic Chair, 1884-2018

February-July 2020, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

In the 1880s, Middlebury resident Henry Luther Sheldon began constructing an eclectic “Memorial Chair,” with each of the spindles in the top two rows carved from “relics”— fragments from sites of historical significance, from the Middlebury Congregational Church to the ship Old Ironsides. In this way, the chair is a material object that embodies local and national history. In January 2018, students from Middlebury College researched this chair, and nineteenth-century collecting practices, then went about creating a 2018 version (using items such as College President Laurie Patton’s earbuds, bike handlebars, and a piece of marble from Marble Works). The two chairs now offer a dialogue about practices of craft and memory-making in 1884 and 2018.

A Footpath in the Wilderness: The History of the Long Trail

November 2019, Calder Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

When James P. Taylor first advanced the idea of a wilderness hiking trail through Vermont’s Green Mountains, his vision was as expansive as the landscape itself. People would come to Vermont, fall in love with the trail and the mountains, and grow to love and support the state itself. To that end, he and twenty-two others founded the Green Mountain Club (GMC). 

The newly-formed Green Mountain Club intended to build a hiking footpath from Massachusetts to Canada. Construction began in 1912, and the first completed section ran from Sterling Pond to Camel’s Hump. Over the next ten years, GMC members and other volunteers constructed an additional 209 miles and raised 44 trail shelters. In 1930, trailblazers cut the final link of the Long Trail from Jay Peak to the Canadian border.

Over the years, the trail underwent a series of reroutes in some areas to lift it from lower elevations to the high ridgeline. Work continues today to upgrade or relocate the trail to more suitable locations or onto conserved lands. Through all the trail changes, the experience of hiking on the Long Trail remains a timeless and meaningful endeavor.

pencil drawing of man standing on porchVermont’s Historical Brand

April 2019-July 2020, National Life Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

From 1934 to 1946, the National Life insurance company commissioned 150 works of art depicting stories from Vermont's past. These illustrations, and associated Vermont stories used to pitch various insurance products, appeared in such popular publications as The Saturday Evening Post, Time, Colliers, and The Atlantic. The set of illustrations became so popular that National Life published them in book form for Vermont schools to use. This exhibit includes 14 of the original works of art created for these campaigns by artists Roy F. Heinrich and Herbert M. Stoops, along with the original descriptions meant to accompany them.  Works on loan from, and exhibit made possible by, National Life. 

Norman Rockwell's Arlington bannerNorman Rockwell's Arlington: America's Home Town

August 2019 to February 2020, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

From roughly 1920 to 1960, Arlington was the center of an influential community of artists whose work shaped our image of America. Led by Norman Rockwell, these artists produced hundreds of illustrations for major magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, ads for major corporations and influential public service campaigns. Norman Rockwell's Arlington: America's Home Town chronicles Rockwell and the other artists who lived in Arlington, as well as the many local residents who posed for the scenes of everyday life they portrayed. Some of the most iconic images we know of life in America were in fact, portraits of Arlington's citizens.

Sports in VermontSports in Vermont

May to November 2019, Calder Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Borrow this exhibit! Available through our Traveling Exhibit program

Vermonters are active and athletic, and find ways to enjoy sports regardless of the weather. In the mountains and in the valleys, inside and out, over the decades the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat has been part of life in the Green Mountain State. Sports in Vermont explores the way Vermonters enjoy pastimes both competitively and for fun, in all four seasons.

Vermont Music Far and Wide

January to July 2019, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Vermont’s music spans genres and generations and reminds us how creative and diverse we are as a people, past and the present. The volunteer-staffed nonprofit Big Heavy World has curated a colorful and interactive exhibit of eclectic artifacts that showcase Vermont music history from recent decades. ‘Vermont Music, Far & Wide’ reflects on how music is an art form, a catalyst for community-building, and also a contributor to the state’s economy.

Seeds of Renewal

October 2018 to May 2019, Calder Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier
Borrow this exhibit! Available through our Traveling Exhibit program

The Seeds of Renewal exhibition was created in 2018 by the Vermont Historical Society in partnership with Dr. Frederick M. Wiseman, an Abenaki community member and retired professor and department chair of humanities at Johnson State College. The exhibit includes panels exploring Abenaki agricultural history and techniques, varieties of indigenous Abenaki plants, agricultural ceremony and harvest dinners, and cooking techniques. It also includes models of indigenous squash varieties, examples of different types of indigenous corn, and recipes. The exhibit aims to raise awareness of Abenaki agricultural history, cuisine, and ceremony, and how one can play an active role in Indigenous cultural awareness and revitalization.

exhibit in museum Brattleboro, the Defining Decades: 1870-1920

July 2018 to January 2019, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Brattleboro’s central New England location has been attractive to people throughout history. And one particular period of time shaped the town rather dramatically. Brattleboro - The Defining Decades showcases Brattleboro from 1870-1920, when the Main Street we recognize today began to take form, industry and commerce expanded, and arts and culture began to flourish. Explore the growth of this southeastern Vermont town through maps, photos, and other items from the Brattleboro Historical Society collection.

Solzhenitsyn in Vermont

May 2018 to November 2018, Calder Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier
Borrow this exhibit! Available through our Traveling Exhibit program

The Solzhenitsyn in Vermont exhibit celebrates the life and work of Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, particularly his time living in Cavendish, Vermont and its influence on his life and work. Telling the story through photographs, quotes, and family memories, the exhibit includes 5 main exhibit panels, along with 4 timeline panels noting important moments from Solzhenitsyn’s life.

Our Vanishing Landmarks: Chelsea and Beyond

January 2018 to July 2018, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Photographs and pen & ink drawings tell the story of old wooden barns, farm buildings, and equipment from the Chelsea, VT area that are slowly disappearing from the landscape but were an essential part of existence and survival for the early farmers in the mountains of Vermont.

Everywhere a SignEverywhere a Sign

December 2017 to May 2018, Calder Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Currently on display at the Vermont History Center, Barre

Borrow this exhibit! Available through our Traveling Exhibit program

Signs are everywhere. They inform, educate and promote. Over time, many signs become a part of their communities. They are a way to orient visitors or a source of shared memory.  The Vermont Historical Society’s travelling exhibit “Everywhere a Sign” examines the distinct and diverse roles signs play in our everyday. Through images and text, you can explore the progression from colonial-era signs that utilized symbols as a common language, to the digital signs of today that can change their message every minute. The diversity, artistry and impact of signs on our everyday lives are immeasurable. What sign will you notice next?

Family Traits

November 2017 to January 2018, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

“Family Traits,” created by the Vermont Folklife Center, tells the story of Stanley Lyndes and the impact he had on his family and the collective memories they share. Stanley channeled his noticing into the making of things, and over time these objects became touchstones for the generations of his family that have followed him, revered as both treasured artifact and the creative expression of a common past.

Studies in Perfection: The Portrait Painting of Thomas Waterman Wood

August 2017 to November 2017, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Exploring some of the portrait work by renowned Montpelier painter T.W. Wood in an examination of his changing technique and talent, with a focus on comparing portraits of local Montpelier citizens with his master copies after Rembrandt and other European masters.

The Morgan Horse in Vermont

April 2017 to August 2017, Local History Gallery, Vermont History Museum, Montpelier

Exploring the Morgan Horse and its ties to Vermont, from the time of Justin Morgan and "Figure" the first Morgan Horse, to today.


Find us on Instagram