Shelburne Museum in Vermont Acquires Rare 200-Piece Native American Art Collection and Plans $12.6 Million Facility for Display
Shelburne, VT – The Shelburne Museum has recently obtained a significant collection of more than 200 Native American art pieces.
This valuable assortment, predominantly consisting of late 19th and early 20th-century pottery, beadwork, clothing, and weavings from Plains and Southwest communities, will be housed in a new facility budgeted at $12.6 million.
The collection, combined with the museum’s existing Native American artifacts, represents the diverse heritage of nearly 80 tribes.
Thomas Denenberg, the museum’s director and CEO, expressed the importance of the combined collections, totaling over 500 items, as a significant center of gravity for northern New England.
This acquisition will provide visitors with an incredible opportunity to appreciate and learn about the rich cultural history of Native American communities.
Shelburne Museum in Vermont to Create Perry Center for Native American Art, Designed by Adjaye Associates
Shelburne, VT – The forthcoming Perry Center for Native American Art, a 9,750-square-foot (906-square-meter) building, will serve as the new home for the recently acquired Native American art collection at Shelburne Museum.
Internationally acclaimed architectural firm Adjaye Associates, renowned for its design of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., has been chosen to design the facility.
The Perry Center, scheduled to open in the spring of 2026, aims to be an environmentally sustainable pavilion that supports respectful and culturally appropriate interpretation and preservation of Indigenous material culture. The museum expressed its commitment to ensuring the care and thoughtful presentation of this significant collection for visitors to engage with and appreciate Native American art.
The Shelburne Museum has actively engaged with the leaders of the four bands of the state-recognized Abenaki tribes in Vermont throughout the project planning process. This collaborative approach has been praised by community members.
Don Stevens, Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk Abenaki Nation, expressed his support for the museum’s stewardship of the Native American collection and the construction of the Perry Center for Native American Art.
He emphasized the significance of the project as an opportunity to attract visitors from across the United States and around the world, encouraging them to study, learn about, and appreciate Native American art and material culture in Shelburne and the wider region.
The museum’s commitment to working closely with tribal leaders demonstrates a dedication to ensuring the project is inclusive, respectful, and enriching for all involved.
A selection of the pottery from the Native American art collection is currently being showcased at the Shelburne Museum in an exhibition that commenced last week.
The display comprises various items, including water jars, grain storage vessels, and large bowls adorned with intricate geometric patterns and other designs.
The entire 200-piece collection, including the exhibited pottery, was generously donated by Teressa “Teri” Perry in honor of her late husband, Tony Perry.
Tony, a prominent figure in Vermont and deeply connected to the region, was fascinated by the multi-dimensional nature of Native American art. According to the museum, he recognized that it not only embodies beauty and history but also evokes contemplation and spirituality.
Following a visit to the current exhibition, John Stomberg, the director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, described the pieces as “stunning.” This appreciation from an art expert affirms the significance and artistic merit of the collection.
In northern New England, the Native American collections at the Hood Museum and the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine, primarily focus on anthropology and archaeology, according to Thomas Denenberg, the director and CEO of the Shelburne Museum.
These collections tend to have a more localized scope. In contrast, the collection being acquired by the Shelburne Museum has a national reach, comparable to the renowned 116-piece Charles and Valerie Diker Collection located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
This distinction emphasizes the significance of the new acquisition for the Shelburne Museum, as it broadens the scope of Native American art represented in the region.
The collection’s national scale contributes to the cultural diversity and significance of the museum’s offerings, providing visitors with a comprehensive and enriching experience of Native American art and material culture.
John Stomberg, the director of the Hood Museum of Art, acknowledged that both the Diker Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Perry Collection at the Shelburne Museum have had transformative effects on their respective institutions.
He noted that these major gifts have allowed the museums to showcase the story of North American art and culture in a comprehensive manner.
Stomberg specifically praised the Perry Collection, describing it as a top-notch collection. This recognition underscores the high quality and significance of the acquired Native American art pieces, further reinforcing the impact they will have on the Shelburne Museum’s ability to present an immersive and comprehensive
In an exciting development for the Museum of American Art and Material Culture in Vermont, plans are underway to construct a magnificent new building on the museum’s sprawling 45-acre campus. This remarkable addition will mark a significant milestone as it becomes the museum’s 40th building, further enhancing its already extensive collection.
The announcement of this generous gift was made in May, creating a buzz of anticipation among art enthusiasts, historians, and the local community. The donor’s commitment to supporting the arts and preserving American cultural heritage is evident through this exceptional contribution.
The upcoming building is expected to seamlessly blend with the surrounding landscape, integrating modern architectural aesthetics with the natural beauty of Vermont.
As visitors approach the museum, they will be captivated by its striking design, paying homage to the rich history and artistic legacy of the nation.
Once completed, the new building will offer an expanded space for exhibitions, allowing the museum to showcase an even wider variety of American art and material culture.
With its state-of-the-art facilities, it will provide a captivating and immersive experience for visitors, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of American heritage.
Moreover, the construction of this new building will also create numerous employment opportunities, benefiting the local economy. Skilled craftsmen, architects, and artists will collaborate to bring this vision to life, ensuring that every detail embodies the museum’s commitment to excellence.
As the museum looks toward the future, the addition of this 40th building symbolizes its enduring dedication to preserving and celebrating American art and material culture.
With this generous gift and the support of its passionate community, the museum will continue to inspire and educate generations to come, fostering a greater appreciation for the rich tapestry of American history and creativity.
In a statement, Denenberg expressed his enthusiasm for the collaboration between the museum and Tribes in studying both historical and contemporary Indigenous material culture and art.
Denenberg highlighted the importance of accessibility, mentioning that this partnership will provide opportunities for students, scholars, and visitors to engage with these collections.
By bringing together these collections, the museum aims to foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous cultures, their histories, and their visual expressions. It recognizes the value of collaborative research and learning, and the potential for this partnership to enhance scholarship and cultural exchange.
Denenberg’s statement reflects the museum’s commitment to inclusivity and the recognition of Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and contributions.
It embodies the museum’s dedication to creating an environment where diverse voices are valued and where Indigenous cultures are celebrated and respected.
Through this collaboration, the museum envisions creating a platform for dialogue and engagement, where Tribes can actively participate in the interpretation and presentation of their own cultural heritage.
This approach ensures that Indigenous communities have agency and control over how their material culture and art are portrayed and understood.
By making these collections accessible to a wide range of audiences, the museum aims to inspire greater appreciation and understanding of Indigenous material culture and art.
Through educational initiatives, exhibitions, and scholarly research, this collaboration will contribute to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of Indigenous cultural heritage.
Overall, Denenberg’s statement highlights the important role that museums play in creating spaces for dialogue, learning, and cultural exchange.
By collaborating with Tribes, the Museum of American Art and Material Culture demonstrates its commitment to fostering inclusivity, accessibility, and mutual respect in the study and appreciation of Indigenous material culture and art.