Circling the Sheldon

March 1, 2014 – April 19, 2014
Windmill Blades Log Cabin Quilt detail, c 1870-1899

Windmill Blades Log Cabin Quilt detail
c 1870-1899

The Sheldon is seeing circles this spring. The new exhibit, Circling the Sheldon, highlights objects in the Sheldon’s collection that feature circles. Visitors will find this distinguished geometric form in historic military and fashion buttons, a wooden peg leg worn by Jonathan Preston who lost his leg in action during the Revolution, Native American baskets, antique leather fire buckets, a colorful yo-yo quilt, and the historic clock face with Roman numerals salvaged from the Middlebury Congregational Church at the time of its 1989 building restoration.  

Chartered in 1882, the museum offers a collection of one-of-a-kind objects unique in design and central to the history of the mid Lake Champlain region.  For the second year in a row, the museum staff, in a collaborative effort, has culled unique objects, many collected by the founder Henry Sheldon himself, to entertain and delight the public.

One of the more sculptural, signature pieces on view is a  an 1877 patented  Penny-farthing, high wheel  bicycle by the Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford, CT, known as “Expert” model with a 52” front wheel.  Rare today, these bikes were so popular in their time that they were termed “ordinaries.”  Another arresting design is found on a late 19th century hand-sewn Log Cabin quilt of “Windmill Blades” capturing the circular movement of the revolving blades.  An adjacent multi-colored circular “Yo Yo” quilt celebrates the famous toy that gained popularity in the 1930s.  Positioned between these quits is the portrait of “Mrs. Wilson,” a seemly relaxed elder seamstress, contently stitching fabric.  Museum’s archival records, however, indicate that Mrs. Wilson tried to drown herself in Middlebury’s Otter Creek, but luckily was rescued by “Dr. Russell.”

The public is invited to learn more about the “Circle” and the Sheldon during casual visits or at exhibit gallery talks held each Wednesday at noon and led by the Sheldon’s Executive Director Bill Brooks or Associate Director Mary Manley.   The tours are included with regular Museum admission; free for museum members.

So this spring, stop by the Sheldon and be amazed at how many circles you can find in ordinary and not-so-ordinary objects.  It’s a whirlwind of an exhibit.  As Joni Mitchell sings in celebration of circles:


We’re captive on the carousel of time

We can’t return, we can only look behind

From where we came

And go ’round and ’round and ’round

In the circle game

And go ’round and ’round and ’round in the circle game.