8 Vermont Art and History Museums Showcase Quirky, Colorful and Eye-Opening Exhibits
February 13, 2023
Want to escape the cold or find inspiration during mud season? Several Vermont art and history museums are open in late winter and early spring with special events, new exhibitions, and timeless collections.
From Burlington the Brattleboro, you’ll find a variety of Vermont art and history museums featuring notable artists, outdoor displays, artifacts, and curiosities.
-Artful Ice Shanties at Retreat Farm. Courtesy photo by Kelly Fletcher/Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, housed in the former Union Station, was founded in 1972 by Brattleboro citizens who saved the town’s historic train station from demolition.
The museum’s annual Artful Ice Shanties outdoor exhibit on Feb. 18-26 at nearby Retreat Meadows includes more than 15 ice shanties that showcase creativity, artistic talent, and the history of ice fishing in New England. Visitors are welcome from dawn to dusk. Park at Retreat Farm, located at 45 Farmhouse Square in Brattleboro, and stop by the welcome hut for free chocolate before heading out to see these colorful creations. Admission to Artful Ice Shanties is free.
At the museum in Brattleboro, visitors can also enjoy a new exhibition featuring artist Keith Haring’s subway drawings now through June 11. Related in-person events include the Opening Celebration: Keith Haring: Subway Drawings on Feb. 18 at 5 p.m.; A Brief History of the Poster at Next Stage Arts Project in Putney on March 23 at 7 p.m.; Director’s Tour: Subway Drawings on March 30 at 7 p.m.; and a Radiant Baby Dance Party on April 14 at 8 p.m.
The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro; brattleboromuseum.org. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the museum is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. The suggested donation is $5-10 per adult.
-The Main Street Museum in White River Junction was founded in 1992. Courtesy photo/Main Street Museum.
Main Street Museum
The Main Street Museum in White River Junction is one of the more offbeat Vermont art and history museums. Its eclectic collection includes taxidermy, the skeleton of the Connecticut River Monster, toenails that apparently belonged to Elvis, a 1930s-era self-playing piano, 10,000 piano rolls, and more.
Founded in 1992 by David Fairbanks Ford, the volunteer-run museum is housed in an old fire station. It hosts Piano Night on Fridays, Movie Nights on Tuesdays, live music, and special events throughout the year. The museum’s One Case Curation exhibition features relics and items collected by Hartland teen Abraham Dunne.
Main Street Museum, 58 Bridge St., White River Junction; mainstreetmuseum.org. Open by appointment Thursday-Sunday. Admission is free.
-The Josef Alberts exhibition at the Fleming Museum of Art runs through May 20. Courtesy photo/UVM.
UVM’s Fleming Museum of Art
The Fleming Museum of Art at UVM in Burlington, founded in 1931, features a collection of 24,000 objects from cultures worldwide and several special exhibitions annually.
Open through May 20, Dark Goddess: An Exploration of the Sacred Feminine features Shanta Lee Gander’s photo series of the same name. The exhibition is a mix of ethnography, cultural anthropology, an exploration of the sacred feminine, and a co-creation with each of the individuals featured. Gander is a photographer, writer, poet, investigative journalist, and advocate.
The Fleming is also showcasing Josef Albers – Formulation: Articulation through May 20. The exhibition offers a chance to look at every color differently and see how our perceptions of colors change based on the surrounding environment.
Albers, an elementary school teacher early in his career, was one of the leading art teachers of the 20th century. Today, his approach to color and drawing informs art education universally and has long been used in UVM courses.
The UVM Fleming Museum of Art, 61 Colchester Ave., Burlington; uvm.edu/fleming. Open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
-The American Museum of Fly-Fishing is located next to the Orvis Flagship Store. Courtesy photo/American Fly-Fishing Museum.
The American Museum of Fly-Fishing
The American Museum of Fly-Fishing in Manchester, founded in 1968, features the world’s most extensive collection of angling and angling-related items. Current exhibitions highlight fly-fishing-inspired artwork by Val Kropiwnicki and the lives of married couple Joan Salvato and Lee Wulff—two luminaries of the fly-fishing world.
The museum’s collections and exhibits document the evolution of fly fishing as a sport, art form, craft, and industry dating back to the 16th century. Rods, flies, reels, tackle, art, photographs, manuscripts, and books are part of the museum’s permanent collection.
The American Museum of Fly-Fishing, 4070 Main St., Manchester; amff.org; Open Thursday-Saturday from November to May, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Tuesday-Sunday from June to October. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids ages 5–14.
-The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum’s permanent collection includes 8,000 items. Courtesy/Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum.
Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum
The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and celebrating the dynamic history of skiing and riding in Vermont. Founded in 1988 by Roy Newton, the museum is located in an 1800s-era town meeting house on Route 100 in Stowe.
A special exhibition, Scott Lenhardt: Artistic Contributions to Burton Snowboards, 1994-Present, features graphics that Lenhardt created for Burton Snowboards. Open through October, the exhibition highlights select works that capture his work as it progresses from concept to final product.
The museum’s permanent collection includes about 8,000 individual items, including about 275 pairs of boots, 400 pairs of skis, 100 pairs of poles, snowmaking equipment, and race timing devices. Visitors can also see Andrea Mead Lawrence’s gold medals from the 1952 Olympics and a vintage ski patrol sled from Mount Mansfield that’s made of corrugated tin.
The Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum, 1 South Main St., Stowe; vtssm.org; Open Thursday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; Suggested donation is $5 per adult.
-The American Precision Museum holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation. Photo/Wikimedia Commons.
American Precision Museum
The American Precision Museum, located in an 1846 armory building, celebrates the region’s Precision Valley. The museum’s signature Shaping America exhibition and accompanying programs explore industrial history in the context of innovation and resourcefulness.
Learn how machinists and tool builders of the Precision Valley played a significant role in determining the course of American history. Explore how advancements in machining propelled industrialization, changed the face of war, and advanced the development of modern-day consumer culture.
The American Precision Museum, 196 Main St., Windsor; americanprecision.org. Open weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November-April; open daily May-October 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $5-20 (children under 6 admitted free).
-The Vermont History Museum is located next to the Vermont State House. Courtesy photo/Vermont Historical Society.
Vermont History Museum
The Vermont Historical Society’s Vermont History Museum recently opened Vermonters at Work in its Local History Gallery, which features exhibits by local historical societies and organizations. Vermonters at Work showcases antique tools and machinery, photos, and paintings of Vermonters working in the landscape.
The exhibit, now through July 29, is a collaboration between Jan Blomstrann, retired co-founder and former owner of NRG Systems, and Sarah-Lee Terrat, a fine artist and designer from Waterbury.
Selected artifacts and printed pieces that Terrat curated for the exhibit—including a small wagon wheel, a wooden grain shovel, and a watercolor painting of a West Fairlee barn—tell the story of an earlier era of Yankee ingenuity and how Vermonters problem-solved and persevered.
The Vermont History Museum, 109 State St., Montpelier; vermonthistory.org/museum. Hours Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission $5-20 (kids under 6 admitted free).
-The mission of the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium is to inspire wonder, curiosity, and responsibility for the natural world. Photo/Wikimedia Commons.
Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium’s collection includes a variety of artifacts, shells, mounted birds, fossils, and tools and is home to Vermont’s only public planetarium.
Founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist Franklin Fairbanks, this Vermont art and history museum was part of the world-wide creation and expansion of natural history museums during the late 19th century. Its collections encompass zoology, paleontology, geology, anthropology, ethnology, and other natural sciences.
Join live astronomy presentations in the planetarium daily for a tour of the planets, moons, and asteroids found across the Solar System and the stars and constellations visible at night. See a collection of mosaics known as “Bug Art” and full-habitat dioramas created in the late 19th century.
Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium, 1302 Main St., St. Johnsbury; fairbanksmuseum.org. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission $7-12 (kids under 4 admitted free).
More Vermont art and history museums will open in April 2023, including Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock and Bennington Museum.
-Looking for more things to do this month or next? Explore Happy Vermont’s statewide events calendar.