Shaker Program at Museum

Shaker furniture and religion will be the topics at Old Independence Regional Museum at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 22. These subjects have direct connection to two Batesville people. Mike West and Twyla Wright will present a program that focuses on these two aspects of that religious sect which flourished in America during the 1800s.

West has been building Shaker oval boxes since 1997. “My appreciation of this craft was stirred because of the simple lines and well-proportioned appearance of Shaker furniture. Their style is typically unornamented and well-built. It reflects the Shakers’ emphasis on practicality, usefulness and durability. I will be showing photographs and examples of reproduction Shaker furniture and boxes, to illustrate my talk,” he stated. His part of the program will also look at Shaker design in buildings and household objects.

Mike West presently serves on the Collections–Exhibits–Program Committee at the museum. After spending 29 years in logistics at Eastman Chemical Company, and then retiring from Ronnie Dowdy Trucking in 2010 as Safety Director, West spends his time now in his shop and doing construction work at Habitat for Humanity in Batesville.

Twyla Wright will share what she learned about Shaker life and religion when she found a Shaker woman connected to her family heritage. “There she was in a document I held — my ancestor’s cousin who became a Shaker in Indiana in 1810. Later, she became the lead eldress in the ministry at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village in Kentucky.

Wright continued “I was very intrigued by this find. So, my husband and I set out on an adventure of discovery as we traveled to New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. I stood on those early Shaker village sites, read their archived journals and letters, and began to write a book about Sarah Jenkins, her life and belief.”

Wright’s book Shaker Eldress: Journey in Zion will be on sale at the museum gift shop after the program. She served as a founding board president in organizing the museum and has continued during the past 16 years as a volunteer, enthusiastically concentrating on collections and exhibits.

The program will be free and open to the public. Normal museum hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $2.00 for seniors and $1.00 for children. The museum is located at 380 South 9th street, between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.

Old Independence is a regional museum serving a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff. Parts of these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820’s Arkansas territory.