Sometimes you find yourself in a place that is almost magical. The Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont was like that for me. The Fairbanks family, inventors and manufacturers of the platform scale, gave the town of St. Johnsbury a museum as well as the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.
The Fairbanks Museum is one of the few surviving Wunderkammern, or wonder cabinet, type of museum that is filled with all sorts of curiosities. It "holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of New England fauna and flora in a museum north of Boston". There are lots of stuffed animals in the Fairbanks, along with scales, toys, archeological artifacts, clothing, textiles, rocks, shells, you name it.
All that was enjoyable but it was when I walked into one section of the museum that I felt a sense of wonder. There I saw several quilted pieces about a foot on a side. At least I thought they were quilted. Some were geometric patterns. Others commemorated historical moments, such as Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation. Still, there was something bugging me about the quilts. I couldn't figure out how they were made. "Where did the quilter get all that iridescent thread a hundred years ago?" I wondered.
Then I saw the sign.
The "quilts" were made of insects. Thousands of insects for each quilt.
The art work, there were nine pieces, were made about a century ago by John Hampson. Hampson was born in England, came over to the States in 1860, and worked for Thomas Edison for a while. Each piece took 3-4 years to make and contains between 6,000 and 13,000 bugs. When Hampson died his daughter searched the country to find a museum that would take his art. The Fairbanks was the only museum interested. Thank you Fairbanks Museum but, please, show some of the Bug Art on your website!
Not bug art, but still charming and unique in a pre-PC sort of way: