Shaker museum logo on a white background.

Shaker Museum

An eye perspective at the shaker museum and library.
A display of chairs and baskets in a museum.
A room with a dresser, a dresser, a dresser, a dresser, a dresser, and.
A dresser and a chair in a room.
A wooden chest of drawers in a room.
A group of wooden chairs in a museum.
A stack of wooden boxes on display in a museum.
A display of dolls in a glass case.
A stack of wooden boxes on display in a glass case.
Three dolls with hats in a display case.
A display of tin buckets on a shelf.
A display of wooden bowls in a glass case.
A display of hats, gloves and coats.
A display case with a lot of items in it.
A display case with a lot of boxes.
A book with a picture of a woman is on display.
Shaver's blood stain in a display case.
Notice shaker cloaks and emma neale.

An eye toward perfection (2008)

Everything created by Shakers was done with the understanding that it reflected a commitment to earthly perfection. For Shakers, work and worship are synonymous. As a result of the Shakers’ constant interaction between the physical and spiritual worlds, the standards for objects they created in this world were set by standards of the next. The furniture, woodenware, textiles, and spiritual arts that have come to represent them in today’s world stand as testimony to the Shakers’ dedicated quest for perfection on earth.

Familiarly known as Shakers because of their distinctive dancing rituals, the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing has been one of the most compelling religious and social movements in American life since its founder, Ann Lee, arrived in New York with eight followers from England in 1774. Dedicated to pacifism, celibacy, and gender and racial equality, Shakers numbered 6,000 members in nineteen communities just before the Civil War; today, one community continues at Sabbathday Lake in Maine.

The Shakers’ initial efforts to create domestic settings reflected the teachings of their founder whose admonition, “Do all your work as if you had a thousand years to live, but as if you knew you would die tomorrow,” guided them. The objects created in Shaker community are physical evidence of their pursuit for spiritual perfection. Shaker craftsmen came from the world, so certainly were aware of and comfortable with many design elements prevalent there. Shaker design, however, reflects a distinctive application of an internal cultural aesthetic, and they made every attempt to avoid the wastefulness and pridefulness they perceived as prevalent in worldly domestic design.

An eye toward perfection brought together for display some of the best examples from the collection of the Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, objects that demonstrate Shaker principles of faith, community, industry, and design.

An eye toward perfection appeared at the Winter Antiques Show in New York, NY, January 18-27, 2008. The exhibition was sponsored by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and the exhibition design was by Stephen Saitas Designs. All photographs of the installation by B. Docktor.

A black and white photo of a person smiling.

Shane Rothe

Curatorial Associate

Shane Rothe (they/them) joined Shaker Museum in July 2023, working with independent curator Maggie Taft on an exhibition for the new museum space in Chatham. Shane is an artist as well as a curator and continues to create in the mediums of painting, sculpture, writing, and performance. Shane holds a BFA from CalArts and an MA in art history and curatorial studies from the University of Chicago.