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New exhibit opening this weekend at Shaker Village

A new exhibit opening this weekend at Shaker Village aims to highlight the institution’s unique artifact collection.

“It’s a chance for us as an institution to highlight our artifact collection and get more pieces out there and share more Shaker stories,” Maggie McAdams, education and engagement manager at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill said.

The exhibit, which opens on Saturday, is called Pieces of Pleasant Hill: Objects + Stories. McAdams said the exhibit has been in the works for nearly a year and builds off programming that Shaker Village already offers.

“This exhibit was born out of a daily public program that we offer,” McAdams said. “The program is appropriately called Objects and Stories, and it is a chance for visitors to get up close and personal with one artifact in particular during the program to examine it together, see what clues it tells us, and what primary sources lead off of those clues to try to really figure out why it matters, how it was used, and why it is significant to the overall Shaker story.”

That program has been ongoing for several years, according to McAdams, so the staff began working last year to enhance the experience. She said they received a lot of positive feedback on that program, so building on that was a way to get even more people involved.

As COVID-19 became a concern in Kentucky, McAdams said they put a hold on the exhibit planning process but picked up again when Shaker Village reopened to the public. With the virus still a concern, McAdams said they’ve made adjustments to be cautious and follow public health guidelines.

The exhibit will be in the historic Centre Family dwelling, the largest building on property that measures roughly 21,000 square feet according to McAdams, leaving a lot of space in the building.

“We’ve actually placed the objects in different categories spread out between six of the retiring rooms on the second floor, so those are spread out nicely so people can interact with those in different rooms without feeling overcrowded,” McAdams said. “We have definitely had to adapt how we engage with the public during this pandemic.”

McAdams said engagement is still a priority but the way in which the public is engaged is now a little different in order to be mindful of the virus.

McAdams said Shaker Village is eager to show the public what is available at the exhibit.

“We have, as an institution, 7,000 objects and that includes artifacts, documents, photographs, and it’s a pretty extensive Shaker collection,” McAdams said. “We’re eager to show people what we have. This exhibit highlights the collection as a whole and asks us to think critically of what we collect and why we collect. For me personally, artifacts provide a tangible connection to the past and for visitors, it provides a way to connect with past lived experiences. By highlighting and including so many artifacts, we’re able to share quite a few personal stories or narratives and that’s one way we can talk about the diverse nature of this community.”

The exhibit is self-guided and included with the price of admission with village interpreters spread throughout who can answer questions, provide directions, and entertain conversations.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill was founded in 1961 to “collect, preserve, and display the records, artifacts, tools, and products of the Shaker community.” Today, Shaker Village actively maintains 34 historic structures, 25 miles of rock walls, 3,000 acres of original Shaker land, and more than 7,000 objects and documents.

This project is supported with funding from the Kentucky Local History Trust Fund, a program administered by the Kentucky Historical Society. Call 1-859-734-5411 or email info@shakervillageky.org for more information.

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