Summer 2015, part 1

It has been almost a year since this trip, but as I’m departing on new adventures this week, I thought that I would finally update the blog. I’m still working on the micromuseums project, although it has taken a bit of a turn of late (into witchcraft museums!).

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Tim, Lucy, and I left Ontario at the start of August on a hot and stormy day. We followed this weather system most of the way through the province, into Quebec and the rolling hills of the Eastern Townships, before we crossed the border into Vermont.

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The tiny village of Glover, Vermont, is home to the Museum of Everyday Life, run by nurse and puppeteer Claire Dolan, who I had met at the Lost Museum conference. This one-room-in-a-barn institution is one of my favourite micromuseums. It is a self-service museum (turn the lights on when you arrive!) that has held a series of exhibitions elevating mundane objects to new heights. Toothbrushes, matchsticks, and dust are just three of the displays (if you go right now, you can see the new exhibition on mirrors).

“What would it be like to imagine a museum which looked like a giant cabinet of curiosity, but filled with perfectly familiar objects rather than exotic ones?”

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The museum smells amazing – like wood and matchsticks (a combination that probably leads to there always being a fire extinguisher at the door).

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The Museum of Everyday Life is deceptively whimsical. Despite the giant paper scarecrow at the door and the comical stuffed bear inside, the displays, their arrangement, and the exhibitions really do question the role of major institutions. Why shouldn’t we celebrate safety pins and pencils? Don’t these everyday items say more about us than the objects that tend to survive in museum collections (it is well-known that museums tend to over-collect from the wealthy, and that the objects that tend to survive are those that are least used rather than most used)? Besides, a lot of the information about dust, for example, is fascinating.

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Dust from a comet.

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It’s hard to read, but one person sent in dust that they had collected from the collapse of the World Trade Center.

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Lucy enjoyed herself. She hadn’t been in a museum since Roswell and was happy to sniff about and possibly add her hair to the dust exhibition.

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Glover is also beautiful, and the museum is right beside its own lake, with a pony to say hello to.

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The Bread and Puppet Theater is also in Vermont and we made a stop at their museum after buying donuts from a roadside stand. Delicious donuts. I still remember them almost a year later!

Bread and Puppet Theater holds a strong place in my heart as I have, over the years, seen a number of their performances and even participated in one in Ottawa many years ago. That was a whole other adventure where I hitched a ride in their dilapidated school bus back to Montreal while they practiced singing Appalachian hymns. It was a strangely beautiful sound over the rumble of the nearly dying engine. In any case, the museum contains many of the puppets from past performances (though not the one I was in – I looked everywhere). We also visited the theatre, but couldn’t stay for a performance. Next time.

Before leaving Vermont we made one more stop at the Dog Chapel in St. Johnsbury.

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It’s not really a museum, although in a sense it is. Established by artist Stephen Huneck after he had been seriously ill, people come from all over, both to bring their dogs for a visit, but also to remember them after they’ve died. People started leaving post it notes in remembrance, and quickly, this happened:

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Well I adore my dog, so I was quickly in lump-in-my-throat-trying-not-to-cry mode reading about everyone else’s love for their dogs. I almost couldn’t handle it when I found a picture of a dog with a face exactly like Lucy’s:

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Onward. We made our way through New Hampshire, Larry the Yaris came to a (literally) screeching halt on the border to Maine, prompting a couple of anxious hours. But we made it to Belfast Maine in fairly good time, where we stayed in a faded-glory mansion right near the water. It was something of a museum in and of itself.

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On our way to the ferry in St John, New Brunswick we made one last stop in Liberty, Maine, to go to Liberty Hardware and the Davisville Museum. The former really is a hardware store, but possibly the most amazing one on earth!

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And the latter is a fairly traditional community museum with a focus on local tools … except for the biocatastrophe and nuclear waste research centre in the attic.

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I would have liked to spend a lot more time here … but it was SO hot up in the attic. I could only handle it for about 10 minutes while Tim sat on the veranda with Lucy.

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End of Part 1.

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