It’s hard to imagine how anything so big could be such a well-kept secret, but there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who haven’t heard of the Shelburne Museum , and those who rave about it. I’m one of the latter.
Situated on 45 acres outside Burlington, Vermont, the Shelburne has been called the “Smithsonian of New England.” It was founded by Electra Havemeyer Webb, heiress to sugar and railroad fortunes. An avid collector of Americana, Webb built the Shelburne and left an active foundation in place to keep it running and growing. It now encompasses 37 exhibits and buildings, some of them nearly incomprehensible in scope. They built a railroad, for instance, to bring the steamship Ticonderoga to the site. A curved building a quarter of a mile long covers a Lilliputian circus parade, each figure, animal, and cart hand-carved — by one person. The figures are only inches tall, and no two are alike.