Bennington Museum engages and transforms our visitors and our community by connecting them to our region's divers arts, rich hsitory, and culture of innovation.
Incorporated in 1852 as the Bennington Historical Association, the Bennington Museum is one of only a few accredited museums in the state of Vermont. The Association was founded to commemorate the pivotal 1777 Revolutionary War battle fought near the town. Following the dedication of the 306-foot-tall Bennington Battle Monument in 1891, the Association turned its attention to a more comprehensive preservation of history, art and material culture in southern Vermont and nearby areas.
After years of searching for a permanent home, the Association in 1923 acquired the beautiful, native stone structure that had served as the first St Francis De Sales Catholic Church from 1855 to 1892. Following some functional renovations, the museum opened to the public in 1928 as the Bennington Historical Museum. Expansions took place in 1938, 1960, 1974, and 1999. The Museum's name underwent changes as well, becoming the Bennington Historical Museum and Art Gallery in 1938, and then simply the Bennington Museum in 1954.
As the largest art and history repository in southern Vermont, the museum houses diverse collections reflecting the history of early Vermont and historically associated areas of New York and Massachusetts. We are proud caretakers of the largest public collection of paintings by the great American folk artist Anna Mary Robertson “Grandma” Moses, as well as the defining collection of 19th‐century Bennington stoneware. “Creative Collisions” are becoming popular at the museum, so we also have on view works by major 20th‐century modernists including Rockwell Kent, Helen Frankenthaler, Jules Olitski, and Sir Anthony Caro, and works by contemporary outsider artists such as Gayleen Aiken and Jessica Park. The permanent collection includes superb furniture and paintings from Vermont, one of the oldest “Stars and Stripes” in existence – the famous Bennington Flag, with its arch of 13 stars encircling the number “76” – the renowned 1863 Jane Stickle Quilt featuring an astounding 5602 pieces, and a 1924 Martin Wasp Touring Car, the only automobile manufactured in Vermont. All fine examples of art, history, and innovation that represent the creative mind at work.
Opened July,2013, Gilded Age Vermont reflects the industial boom in Bennington from the mid-nineteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. It features Frederick MacMonnies’ sumptuous portrait of May Suydam Palmer and the Martin Wasp, a luxury automobile made in Bennington by Karl Martin between 1920 and 1924, along with paintings by William Morris Hunt and glass and metal works by Lewis Comfort Tiffany. Collectively, these objects, among others, paint a vivid picture of innovation and prosperity from Vermont’s past. Drawn primarily from items in the museum's collection, Gilded Age Vermont is devoted to aspects of the permanent collection not cohesively celebrated in the past.
Another new gallery, Bennington Modernism features works from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s by a group of avant-garde artists working in and around Bennington who led the nation in artistic thought and innovation. Among the artists of national and international stature with local ties are Pat Adams, Willard Boepple, Anthony Caro, Paul Feeley, Helen Frankenthaler, Patricia Johanson, Vincent Longo, Kenneth Noland, Dan Shapiro, David Smith and Tony Smith. Collectively they explored such diverse strategies as Color Field painting, Minimalism, an early Conceptualism, and even proto-Pop.
Also on permanent exhibit is Vermont-made furniture, Ralph Earl’s painting of Bennington in 1798, and Bennington pottery featuring Norton pottery, Fenton pottery and Redware. The Textile Gallery features among other pieces, one of the oldest “stars and stripes” in existence – the Bennington Flag, and for six weeks each year, the 1863 Jane Stickle Quilt. The museum maintains a Research Library with a substantial nucleus of New England historical and genealogical materials, including over 8,000 books, documents and primary sources, its Military Gallery focusing on the Revolutionary War battle named after the town of Bennington, as well as six other gallery spaces.
Our goal at Bennington Museum is to celebrate the creativity of Vermont in all its forms, from the 18th century to the present, and to inspire innovation in the future. We currently hold over 40,000 objects in our permanent collection, plus rare books, archives, and manuscripts in our research library. These allow us to host dynamic programs and exhibitions. From letters by George Washington to contemporary art, we engage and transform visitors by connecting them to the region’s diverse arts, rich history, and culture of innovation.
In 2016, visit us for 3D Digital, Here and Now showcasing the burgeoning use of 3D digital technology in art, design, and manufacturing right now within our region. On view July 1 through November 6 is Milton Avery's Vermont the first exhibition to take a focused look at the work of this prominent American modernist based upon his summers spent in southern Vermont, from the mid-1930s through the mid-1940s.
The property is further complimented by the Hadwen Woods and the George Aiken Wildflower Trail. This area is being developed to present the native species of wildflowers found in George Aiken’s book entitled “Pioneering with Wildflowers” This area is open to the public.