“We Make You Kindly Welcome”
Maine’s Shaker roots began in Alfred around 1793. It was at Alfred that Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett wrote what is perhaps the best-known Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” in 1848. The composer Aaron Copland later made this melody famous in his the score of his ballet “Appalachian Spring.” “Simple Gifts” is now the Official Town Song of Alfred, Maine.
The Shakers at Alfred farmed and tended their orchards, gardens, dairy, kitchen, and shops. In time, hundreds of Shakers called Alfred home.
Shaker life is valued for its simplicity, respect for nature, and prowess in art, furniture design, architecture, agriculture, music, and invention, and for its philosophy of life. The Shakers sought harmony in all things.
In 1931, the remaining Alfred Shakers merged their community with the sister group to the north, Sabbathday Lake. Sabbathday Lake is the last Shaker community in Maine and the last home anywhere of living Shakers.
Local residents decided that southern Maine and the town should not lose its Shaker history. They formed the Friends of the Alfred Shaker Museum, and renovated a Shaker carriage house as a museum and educational center. FASM makes the Museum and its resources available to residents, tourists, scholars, and schoolchildren in order that the might learn and value the rich history that is still present in local memory.
The Alfred Shaker Museum is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-4 PM from May till October. The Friends of the Museum mount exhibits, hold events and craft workshops, run a museum shop, build the museum’s collection of Shaker artifacts and resources as well as its library, and create school programs.
Visit, and as the Shakers would have done…
We Make You Kindly Welcome.
Our 2015 Season: What We’ve Been Up To
As we near the end of the 2015 museum season at Alfred Shaker Museum, here’s a quick look back.
This year introduced several new programs, among them a Shaker dinner in June, which was open to the public, and a speakers’ series in August and October. We collaborated with the Sanford-Springvale Historical Society on the speakers’ series, which was titled the Sid Emery Memorial Forum after a late member of both of our organizations. Sid Emery of Springvale, who died last spring, would have been pleased, we believe, since he loved the history of this part of Maine.
We also connected with the film club at Sanford High School and the club advisor James Harmon, the teacher who brought the Sanford International Film Festival into existence. Harmon’s club and the Saco River Community TV station, under Patrick Bonsant, filmed our speakers’ series. Those videos are now posted on the Videos page. It is our hope that school systems in our region will incorporate viewings of these talks in their curricula. The speakers were all great and their talks eye-opening.
Before the season even started, we sent thousands of cards to a number of travel trade shows in the Northeast, inviting the public to stop at the museum during their vacations in and visits to Southern Maine. We did that through the Sanford Regional Economic Development office, and we thank them. We also asked Alfred’s town meeting voters to make “Simple Gifts” the official song of Alfred — and they did! We were delighted.
In addition, our building crew continued the renovation work on the museum with a new floor and dehumidifier in the basement, new storm windows, light-filtering shades in the exhibition area, and rehabilitation of the museum building’s second-floor library and office space. Our next tasks are to finish that second-floor room and to paint the exterior of the building.
To facilitate those events and that work on the building, we received nearly $25,000 in grants from several foundation sources. We are very grateful to them. We also are growing our Endowment Fund to help support the museum’s operations.
Of course, we continued our traditional events as well: namely, a student essay contest last winter, a new seasonal exhibit which opened in May, our annual dinner meeting in June, our part in the town festival in July with the now-annual “Simple Gifts” concert, and our major Apple Festival fundraiser in September along with York County Shelters, the Brothers of Christian Instruction, and Giles Family Farm. Still to come are the town’s holiday festival in November, where we’ll be a vendor, and participation in Alfred’s holiday sale in early December.
For members of the Friends of Alfred Shaker Museum, it has been an exciting season. We aim to continue this work. Please join us to help make it possible. We need more member volunteers. Too few people have taken on so much to spread appreciation of our local history. And — with your help — we aim to do even better next year.
Barbara Carlson and Linda Aaskov
President and Museum Curator (respectively)
Friends of Alfred Shaker Museum