Gripping the wild mane of a galloping, whirling carousel horse is a memory we all share from childhood. Prized by admirers of Americana, these nostalgic mounts have been snatched up by private collectors, making complete sets almost impossible to find.
But this spring, Vermont’s Shelburne Museum is pulling out of its eclectic collection a trolley-park menagerie that’s not only intact (with animals, chariots, screens, and organ) but also in its original paint — possibly the only such set in existence.
The Dentzel Carousel exhibit in the museum’s Round Barn celebrates both the art and the history of this iconic American tradition. Perhaps the most surprising aspects are its turn-of-the-century screen paintings, some of which, far from depicting the benign fantasies that bedeck modern merry-go-rounds, tackled political issues, such as the anti-Spanish sentiment.
Still, the stars of the exhibit are the intricately carved giraffes, lions, tigers, and horses that make up this herd of wooden figures. Meticulously restored, each animal received two months of careful cleaning. The effort was worth it: Returned to their original vibrancy, they’re once again on display to capture the imaginations of children and adults alike.
May 18-Oct. 26, daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $18, students $13, ages 6-18 $9, under 6 free.
5555 Shelburne Road (Rte. 7), Shelburne, VT.