If your jaw doesn’t drop when you step onto the grounds of this 45-acre Shelburne Museum (5555 Shelburne Rd., 802/985-3346, www.shelburnemuseum.org , 10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily May–Oct., $20 adults, $10 children 4–18, children under 4 free, $50 family day pass), you might want to check your pulse. “Museum” might be too small a word for 38 buildings displaying hundreds of thousands of items, including a full-size Lake Champlain steamship, a 1920s carousel, a fine horse-drawn vehicle collection, and galleries of American folk art and French Impressionist paintings.
The museum is the work of art collector Electra Havemeyer Webb, who relocated buildings from across the country to display her collection, opening the museum in 1947. After her death, Webb’s children brought her own home to the museum, and it is still set up with the art and furniture in the exact locations Webb intended them, providing an intimate window into the private life of a wealthy collector.
Hanging in the rooms of the Greek Revival mansion are many first-rate paintings by Cassatt, Degas, Monet, Corot, and Manet, including the first Impressionist painting brought to America, a Monet painting of a drawbridge, which was purchased by Webb in Paris for $20.Webb and her parents were also important contributors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York ; because of that association, the Shelburne Museum is able to snag world-class traveling exhibitions; recent shows featured a retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings, including some of her best-known flower canvases; and an exhibit of never-before-seen furniture and glasswork by art-nouveau master craftsman Louis Comfort Tiffany.