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Grant number: PG-51843-13

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Hancock Shaker Village, Inc. (Pittsfield, MA 01202-0898)
Lesley C Herzberg (Project Director: May 2012 to present)

Assessment of Shaker Gift Drawings

The conservation assessment of 25 "Gift Drawings" dating from the Era of Manifestations (1837-1860s) at Hancock Shaker Village. Gift drawings provide private and intimate glimpses into the complexity of Shaker beliefs. Designs range from floral to spiritual motifs, and some are composed of cryptic characters and designs called "spiritual writing." The collection represents a quarter of the gift drawings known to exist from the Shaker tradition and are the most requested items by visiting scholars. The drawings are on view to the public at the institution as well as through traveling exhibitions; however a conservation assessment is needed before the collection can be loaned to other institutions.

The Shakers, a spiritual community founded in the late 18th century and surviving to this day, are known for their simple design in furniture and architecture. Less known are the hundreds of gift drawings created by "instruments" of the spirit- 13 sisters and 3 brothers across five Shaker settlements who received spiritual messages from Shaker ancestors and recorded the messages in prose, poetry, lyrics and visual images. The 25 extant Gift Drawings at Hancock Shaker Village provide insight into the period of Shaker history known as the Era of Manifestations. These ink and water color on paper works are the most valuable pieces in the Hancock Shaker Village collection, both for their significance in telling the Shaker story at the village and for the potential to share the story through the drawings with other institutions. The plan for this project is to have the Williamstown Art Conservation Center perform the needed assessment on all 25 Gift Drawings.

Project fields:
Archival Management and Conservation

Preservation Assistance Grants

Preservation and Access

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2013 – 6/30/2014