The Sheldon Museum was officially incorporated in 1882 and thrived up until 1907 when Henry Sheldon passed and the doors of the museum were subsequently closed. The Sheldon Museum came back to life in the 1930s, when Middlebury College’s W. Storrs Lee and art historian Arthur K.D. Healy inspected the building and started to look at the collection in detail. They were amazed by its quality and rallied a group of townspeople to help restore the old museum. The Victorian propensity for objects lined up in cases had now been supplanted by the 20th century’s passion for Colonial Revival domesticity.
Subsequent decades have seen the Sheldon Museum grow into one of the most professional and well-respected history museums in New England. And thanks to Henry’s careful collecting of paper records, we live in what one historian has called, “the best-documented community in America.” This collecting did not end with Henry. The Sheldon is constantly receiving donations of objects and documents that enrich our understanding of the past.
Much of the current Sheldon Museum collection arrived long after Henry’s time – from wedding dresses to photographs to last week’s newspaper. We anticipate receiving additional 20th century items and look forward to a day when we might be preserving as many letters from the World Wars, for example, as we have from the Civil War. The public wants to learn about the experiences of recent generations, too. The Sheldon Museum continues to evolve as we find innovative ways to make meaningful connections between the past and today.