Vermont

Glover, Vermont: The Museum of Everyday Life

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I alluded to this museum some weeks ago when writing about another Glover museum: the sensational Bread and Puppet Theater.  Though it’s taken me a while to get around to writing about it, it’s certainly not because the museum wasn’t any good.  To the contrary, Glover seems to have produced an extraordinary number of creative individuals and weird museums for its tiny size (and actually, the creators of this museum seem to also be involved with the Bread and Puppet Theater, which isn’t surprising, as the museums give off a similar vibe).  I suspect it’s some kind of hippie enclave, not that there’s anything wrong with that!

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Even though I always check out Atlas Obscura and Nerdy Day Trips before planning any kind of vacation, I only happened to find out about the Museum of Everyday Life after a last minute glance at the excellent Roadside America (which I haven’t used much in the past due to mainly travelling in Europe, but it proved to be invaluable on this road trip).  I couldn’t even find an address for the place!  The website gives vague directions, and it is along Rt. 16, so following that is probably your best bet.  We ended up driving past it while we were heading for Bread and Puppet, because we weren’t looking for it at that point, and had to turn around and go back.  It is literally in an abandoned barn at the side of the road, next to a large pond, about 5 miles south of Glover.

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The museum is totally unstaffed, and we were the only visitors, though clearly more people than I would have imagined track it down, judging by the entries in the guestbook.  You have to turn on the lights before you go in, and the building is unheated, so it definitely gets chilly!  Inside, we were met with the most incredible array, of well, crap, really.  It is the museum of everyday life, after all, so much of the permanent collection seemed to be made up of cool junk people had donated.  There was also a random giant bear in the corner, with knives sticking out of him.  Cool.

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The temporary exhibits seem to change about once a year and can evidently be about anything (they take suggestions!); past ones were on matches and safety pins, but the current one is on pencils!  (Which partially makes up for the fact that I still haven’t been to the Pencil Museum in Cumbria, though I have seen the Birmingham Pen Room!) They take you right in with a hand-written history of pencils (actually, all the signage here is charmingly hand-written), and then showcase all sorts of pencil paraphernalia.

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From shaped pencil sharpeners, to exotic and giant pencils, they’ve got it all!  The displays are arranged on handmade wooden cases, and of course, include things you can interact with.  The best was the pencil shooter, lovingly constructed from an upended horn and a spring.  In order to use it, you of course had to wear the safety equipment hanging on the wall; a safety vest and a pair of goggles, and you had to yell something before you fired at the target (perhaps PENCIL!  I can’t remember).  Despite fully entering into the spirit of the occasion, I was pretty rubbish at it.

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There were lots of other surprises to be had at the Museum of Everyday Life, like the carefully cultivated spiderweb in one of the corners, complete with dead spiders and flies that had been hand-collected (arachnophobes might want to avoid that corner).  Due to my pathetically small bladder, I also discovered that they have a compost toilet, which may sound kind of gross, but it was honestly pleasanter than I was anticipating.  I am sad to report that they have apparently had a problem with theft, as there were signs explaining that a giant pencil and one of the erotic matchbooks (part of a collection behind the “adults-only” velvet curtain.  Sexy) had been stolen.  Seriously, people are the worst.  Why would anyone steal from this delightful place?

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You may have noticed that you can even dress up as a pencil!  The costume seemed weirdly to have been made for someone my height, as it fit disturbingly perfectly.  However, as I couldn’t really move my legs in it, I couldn’t venture round the museum wearing it, so I left it in its home in the merch section, which also has a small selection of pamphlets and things for sale (though they were sadly out of matchbooks), which you can pay for by leaving money in the donation box.  Again, please don’t rip a small museum off!

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It looks like they’ve only been around for 2-3 years, so I hope they can keep it going – stumbling in here feels like finding some secret treasure trove, and the atmosphere is perfect!  I am exceedingly fond of small, quirky museums, and I think the Museum of Everyday Things has been the quirkiest yet, so it gets top marks: 5/5.  Definitely, definitely stop here if you are in Vermont – you can easily swing by the puppet theater too!

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Glover, Vermont: Bread and Puppet Theater Museum

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In keeping with the Halloween theme, I’d like to share a really amazing/creepy place with you that I discovered in the wilds of Vermont.  Actually, it’s not the only cool museum in the tiny town of Glover, but the other will have to wait for a future post….

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The Bread and Puppet Theater seems to be a sort of art collective that puts on occasional performances in an old barn/paper mache theater.  Next to this is yet another barn where all the puppets from past shows are stored, and it is simply incredible.  Admission is free, and although someone clearly lives in the house attached to it, you’re left completely to your own devices to turn the lights on and off, and purchase things from the shop (donation bins all on the honour system, so don’t be a jerk!). It’s open from 10-6, June-November, and off-season by appointment.

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Wandering through an unheated, dimly lit barn full of giant (and I mean giant!) puppets is definitely quite a unique/scary experience, perhaps not for the fainthearted, but I thought it was fantastic!  I don’t think words can properly do it justice, so for the most part, I’m going to share photos with you, with minimal commentary.

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The museum is over two floors, and you don’t want to miss the top one, as I almost did, because that is where all the properly huge puppets are kept, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Ben Franklin, perfect for history nerds like me!

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There are also a few pieces of art, including one on the story of a Jewish girl living in Germany (it was during the ’40s, so you can probably guess it doesn’t end well, though it is very moving), and the recollections of the woman who lived on the farm until 1970, which are also available in book form.

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It really is a very special place, so please do stop by if you’re in the area.  The vibe borders on the anarcho/hippie, as you might expect, but given the nature of the museum, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Having the freedom to explore on your own under the prying eyes of puppets, accompanied by mysterious creaking sounds, simply enhances the experience.  4/5.

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