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The Shakers: America's Quiet Revolutionaries

From November 15, 2014 - October 2015, experience Shakers: America's Quiet Revolutionaries at the New York State Museum.

Shaker Mode of Worship

New York State played an essential role in the establishments of the most culturally significant communal religious society in America, the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, commonly known as the Shakers.

The New York State Museum, in collaboration with the Shaker Museum | Mount LebanonHancock Shaker Village, and the Shaker Heritage Society (Albany), as well as the State Library and State Archives, presents a major exhibition, The Shakers: America's Quiet Revolutionaries, detailing one of the most significant communal religious groups in American History and exploring how it influenced and was influenced by the development of our new republic.

Artifacts from these preeminent Shaker collections will be exhibited together for the first time at the New York State Museum.

The Beginning of the Shaker Revolution

The group's charismatic leader, Ann Lee, landed in New York harbor with eight adherents on August 6, 1774. The group soon obtained land north of Albany to form the first Shaker settlement and launched a revolution parallel to the American Colonies' struggle against British rule.

As the Shakers sought religious freedom in America, their spiritual practices and community focus set them apart from greater society; later it was not only their devotional routines but also their product innovations, marketing acumen, and views toward gender equality that seemed "revolutionary" to the outside world.

The Exhibit

The 7,000 square foot exhibition will feature hundreds of objects, documents, and multimedia elements that will illuminate the lives of the Shakers in their three earliest villages - Albany, Mount Lebanon, and Hancock. Thematically divided into six areas, the exhibit will show how the Shakers' unique model of an equal society challenged the norms of a new nation.

shaker.pic

Landing Day: Arrival, Settlement, and Gathering 1774-1787, recounts the beginnings of the Shaker society, including their journey to America and their establishment at Niskayuna (Albany), as well as Mother Ann Lee's missionary travels, and the efforts of the first Shakers to grow their numbers and establish the first communities.

"Dancing Is No Foolish Play": Shaker Theology and Religious Practice will evoke the physical environment of a Shaker meeting house. Architectural elements will be arranged to give viewers the sensation of peeking into the meeting house from outside. Audio and video components will be used to show the noise, fervor, and energy that typified religious practices.

Shaker Barn

Spreading the Faith, Keeping Union: Hancock Shaker Village as a Case Study documents the first attempt to replicate the Shaker communities at Watervliet and Mount Lebanon (later expanding to 19 major communities nationwide). This area will demonstrate how the Shakers attempted to achieve union through architecture, clothing, and the duplication of industries.

Comfortable Shaker Home: Being a Shaker explores the concept of family, as defined by the Shakers, including the care of children, the elderly, and the disabled, as well as gender relations.

"A Man Can Show His Faith as Much by Pulling Onions": Agriculture and Industry for Home and the World will highlight four major industries of the Shakers: broom making, garden seeds, medicines, and chairs. This section will also explore how the Shakers used their products and reputation for honest business practices to present a "brand" to appeal to potential customers.

Enduring Design: The Shaker Influence on Art and Design will show how the Shaker design, which was a deep expression of the belief system, came to have resonance to artists and designers around the world up to the present day.

The exhibition and related elements will be a major tourism draw to the Capital Region and to nearby Shaker sites in New York and Massachusetts. Educational programs will provide visitors of all ages an opportunity to explore the history and achievements of the Shaker movement. 

While in Albany 

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Where to Stay

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