About the class

From the course catalogue:

Material Culture in Focus, Professor Ellery Foutch
In this course we will investigate material culture, objects made or altered by human hands and design. We will keep a tight focus on one object or group of objects, cultivating an in-depth understanding and benefitting from access to local collections, curators, makers, and users. The focus will change annually, but the subject will always be an object of material culture that students will examine first-hand and research. Students will then create a lasting documentation and analysis of the work for public benefit, whether as an exhibition, a publication, or a website.

For Winter 2018, we will focus on a “relic chair” of the Henry Sheldon Museum. Following the style of the classic Windsor chair and its democratic associations (Windsor chairs famously populate Independence Hall and were the seats of choice for those writing and debating the Constitution), Henry Sheldon crafted this particular chair using at least twenty-five different kinds of wood; each spindle comes from a famous landmark, ship, site, or artifact. Students will investigate the history of the form, the practice of chair-making, Colonial Revivals, the significance of the tradition of the “relic,” and its subsequent influence. We will have first-hand experience with wood-working and exhibition-building, creating our own Middlebury “relic chair” as well as a website that will share our research, findings, and analysis with a broader public.

For more, see Gaen Murphree’s February 2018 article about the project: http://www.middlebury.edu/newsroom/archive/2018-news/node/566721

First day of class: examining Henry Sheldon’s “Relic Chair” at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Middlebury, VT, January 2018.

Building our visual literacy of Windsor chairs in the classroom
Archival research at the Sheldon Museum
Chairwright Timothy Clark demonstrates his process at his workshop, January 2018.
Students try out the shaving horse at Timothy Clark’s workshop, January 2018.
Art Studio Technician Colin Boyd instructs students in using the lathe in the college wood shop, January 2018.
Students work the the lathe in the college wood shop, learning to turn the wooden spindles.
Guides and stencils, with finished spindles, after our first day wood turning at the college woodshop with Colin Boyd
The class with Tim Clark, Colin Boyd, and the nearly-finished chair on our final day of class, February 2018.
The two chairs on view at the Sheldon Museum, fall 2018.



Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.
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