Exhibition of Shaker Artifacts Now at National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA

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More than 150 stunning examples of the Shaker dedication to simplicity and function are on display in the exhibition, "Handled With Care: The Function of Form in Shaker Craft," at the National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA now through April 22, 2007.

Handled With Care: The Function of Form in Shaker Craft

More than 150 stunning examples of the Shaker dedication to simplicity and function are on display in the exhibition, "Handled With Care: The Function of Form in Shaker Craft," at the National Heritage Museum, Lexington, MA now through April 22, 2007.

From dustpans and brushes to baskets and buckets, the exhibition celebrates the beauty of everyday objects that are at once utilitarian, artful, and expressions of the Shaker faith. Many pieces included have a handle of some sort, demonstrating the usefulness of the objects and the care with which they have been "handled" since they were made. The handles show how these objects connected not only to Shaker ideas, but also to the real people who built and ran Shaker communities. Shelves, tables and chests on which these objects would rest or be stored will also be presented.

"Handled With Care" works to illustrate how the Shakers' quiet devotion to purity and utility in all things, no matter how humble, created useful objects that, through their simplicity and efficiency, transcended their purpose to become acts of faith. It was their quest to live in a heaven on earth with a distinctive material world reflecting that duty. Spared from extraneous ornamentation seen in worldly goods, the functional objects made by Shaker hands are of clean lines and unexpected grace.

Round baskets of white ash, carriers of maple and pine, a deeply varnished hat form, iron work, and graceful table swifts for winding yarn are just a few of the objects on view. The simplicity of the pieces, and the perfect connection between design and the task for which the objects were made, will allow the visitor to experience the grace and visual sensuality the Shakers brought to their day-to-day tasks. The deeper significance of Shaker-made objects will also be explored.

The Shakers were founded in England in 1747, and they arrived in America in 1774. The tenets of the religion are based on the confession of sin, communal life, and celibacy. Shakers also believe in gender equality, pacifism, and a dedication to creating heaven on earth. Today, four remaining Shakers live in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.

"Handled With Care" is drawn from the private collection of M. Stephen and Miriam Miller and the permanent collection of Hancock Shaker Village. Before the exhibition opened at the Village in the spring of 2006, many of the objects had never been exhibited. The Museum is the only eastern New England venue.

A full-color exhibition catalogue, authored by collector M. Stephen Miller and Christian Goodwillie, Curator of Collections at Hancock Shaker Village, is on sale in the Heritage Shop. The catalogue can also be ordered on line. The publication features several essays by the curators, and by noted Shaker scholar Glendyne Wergland.

The National Heritage Museum is dedicated to presenting exhibitions on a wide variety of topics in American history and popular culture. The Museum is supported by the Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. The Museum is located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington, at the corner of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am-5 pm, and Sunday, noon-5 pm. Admission and parking are free. Heritage Shop and Courtyard Café on site. For further information contact the Museum at (781) 861 6559. For more information, visit our web site at http://www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.

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Linda Patch
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