Shaker Museum to Create Facility in Chatham, NY

Selldorf Architects to Design $15 Million Project

By: - Aug 03, 2020

Shaker Museum has selected Selldorf Architects to create its new permanent facility in downtown Chatham, New York to exhibit its comprehensive collection of more than 18,000 pieces of Shaker material culture and accompanying archives. Like the objects themselves, the physical building will embody Shaker values of inclusion, innovation, and equality to create a museum that both tells the Shaker story and is responsive to the needs of the community in Chatham, Columbia County, and the surrounding Hudson Valley. It was also announced that Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects will collaborate on the project. The museum will retain and maintain the historic Shaker site in Mount Lebanon.

After more than a decade without a facility in which to show its collection, the new campus located at 5 Austerlitz Street will provide ample space for exhibitions and respond to the need for inclusive community gathering spaces through its exhibitions and robust programming. The facility encompasses the renovation of an historic building that anchors downtown Chatham and the creation of an expansive addition to provide the cultural institution with almost 30,000 square feet of space over four floors.

The physical space’s design embodies and perpetuates the core ideals that were at the foundation of Shaker culture but will apply them in a modern and relevant context and form. The design and the programming envisioned for this new facility re-examines the experience and interaction of a visitor with a museum while keeping practicality and inclusivity at the forefront, ranging from the arrival experience to common space usage to exhibition accessibility.

During a period of isolation and economic contraction, this new Shaker Museum illustrates a bold optimism for the future and radical enthusiasm for the notion of community and its power to transform. The $15 million project is expected to break ground in 2021 and be completed in 2023. To date, $6.3 million has been raised in the capital campaign to support the facility, which includes a major gift from Columbia County resident Jack Shear and a $1.569 million grant from Empire State Development and the Regional Economic Development Council.  

Paul Cassidy, Board Chair, Shaker Museum said, “There has never been a better time to illuminate and perpetuate the legacy of the Shakers in America and no other organization is better positioned to do so. Shaker Museum is thrilled to have Annabelle Selldorf and Selldorf Architects as partners in this ambitious and meaningful project to create a permanent home for our collection. Selldorf’s appreciation for Shaker culture is matched by their ingenuity and talent and we are inspired by the passion Selldorf is bringing to this project.”

Lacy Schutz, Shaker Museum Director said, “Shaker objects are recognized for their innovation, ingenuity, and simplicity, telling a wonderful story of their ideals and the highest and best values of America. During this current moment of social distancing, it is vital to remember that community – the bedrock of Shaker beliefs – is an integral part of the human condition. With today’s stark divisions, the Shaker legacy of equality and inclusion offers a roadmap for creating sustainable, meaningful lives through the cooperation afforded by community. In this context, this new museum takes on more urgency and relevance. We are delighted to be working with Annabelle Selldorf to create a place that truly embodies Shaker ideals.”

Annabelle Selldorf, Principal of Selldorf Architects commented, “As a firm we are committed to creating spaces and buildings of integrity, that are welcoming and bring people together in the spirit of inclusion and inquiry. It is a pleasure to be collaborating with a client whose values are so closely aligned with our own. This is a powerful moment to reflect on the Shaker legacy and its enduring lessons for contemporary society.”

Thomas L. Woltz of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects added, “We are excited to create a series of outdoor spaces and gardens inspired by the regional ecology and Shaker culture. This landscape aspires to seamlessly blend the natural beauty and history of Columbia County with Selldorf Architects’ design and celebrates the native biodiversity of New York State which greeted the Shakers when they arrived in Mount Lebanon in the late 18th century.” 

Shaker Museum estimates that the new facility will draw 30,000 visitors each year who will spend a projected $1.75 million annually in the region. Shaker Museum expansion is expected to have a total economic impact of $12.7 million and support 113.5 jobs in the Capital Region according to an analysis commissioned by the cultural institution. The museum will continue to own and manage the historic Shaker Village at Mount Lebanon, which was the largest and most successful utopian communal society in America for 160 years from 1787 to 1947.

Shaker Museum

With more than 18,000 objects, Shaker Museum stewards the most comprehensive collection of Shaker material culture and archives. It is the leader nationwide among organizations devoted to Shaker history. Its permanent new facility in Chatham, NY designed by Selldorf Architects is estimated for completion in 2023. The museum also stewards the historic site in New Lebanon, New York and has a campus in Old Chatham, New York, which is open year-round by appointment, where the administrative offices, collections, library, and archives are housed. The museum’s collection can be viewed online at

Selldorf Architects

Selldorf Architects creates public and private spaces that manifest a clear and modern sensibility to enduring impact. Since its inception, the firm’s guiding principles have been deeply rooted in humanism. The firm’s cultural and institutional clients include the Frick Collection, Hispanic Society Museum & Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Dumbarton Oaks, High Museum, Luma Arles, the Clark Art Institute, Neue Galerie New York, and Brown University. In addition, the firm has completed numerous galleries for David Zwirner, Hauser & Wirth, and Gladstone Gallery among others, and designed exhibitions for the Whitney Museum, Corning Museum, the Jewish Museum, Frieze Masters, Gagosian Gallery and the Venice Art Biennale.

Nelson Byrd Woltz

Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects applies design excellence at the intersection of ecological and cultural systems. The firm strives to create a culture of stewardship and engagement with the world around them for a more equitable and resilient future. The firm believes in the power of design to positively shape communities and to reveal the beauty and complexity of the environment and our place in the world.