Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What is the Shaker Heritage Society?

Shaker Heritage Society is an education and historic preservation organization incorporated by the New York State Department of Education. The Society’s mission is to the preserve the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District, site of America’s first Shaker settlement, and to provide educational programming to encourage interest in Shaker history and its influence on American culture.

The Watervliet site is significant for numerous reasons. The garden seed industry, flat broom and vacuum sealed tin cans were innovations that have been attributed to the Watervliet Shakers. Shakers developed innovative planned communities that emphasized gender and racial equality. Watervliet served as a model for many 19th century religious and social experiments. Historical incidents at Watervliet led to many changes in New York State laws governing divorce, child custody and property ownership and recent research has proven that the community was engaged in sheltering fugitive slaves.

Shaker Heritage Society offers a wide variety of educational programs including the award winning Learning Fair for fourth grade students, which meets numerous New York State Learning Standards and emphasizes Shaker traditions of respect, responsibility, tolerance and cooperation. The Society also offers a variety of outreach programs lectures, craft workshops, and guided tours that can be modified to meet the needs and interests of diverse audiences of all ages and backgrounds. The Society’s annual craft fairs in July, September and Christmas have become a community tradition that supports local craft artisans while also providing opportunities to learn more about Shaker history and the Watervliet site.