After several decades of living in Vermont, this reporter decided it was time to visit the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury and it did not disappoint.
On a sunny summer Saturday, we headed up Route 2, through Plainfield, Marshfield and Danville, arriving in town with an address on a phone, when a wrong turned landed us in the graduation parking area for St. Johnsbury Academy. After escaping that and taking a tour through the farmers market and the downtown, we decided to park by a large, beautiful granite church which was directly across the street from the museum.
The museum is a natural history museum founded in 1889, featuring permanent and rotating collections. It is Vermont's only public planetarium, with daily shows, and is home to the "Eye on the Sky" weather heard daily on Vermont Public. It’s an eclectic collection of collections in a stunning building with a soaring ceiling and mezzanine level featuring gleaming wood and oversized windows at each end.
One particular exhibit that fascinated us, to the extent that we discussed it for days afterwards, was the Bug Art of John Hampson. The Fairbanks Museum has each of his nine mosaics made entirely from moths and beetles. Each piece contains thousands of insects, ranging from 6,300 to over 13,500 individual insects. We found ourselves wondering how and where he found and killed and dried all the insects, speculating as to whether he raised the bugs or caught then in the wild!
Beyond day visits to the museum, visitors can visit a butterfly house, participate in educational lectures and movies and more.
The Fairbanks family, who also created many of the town’s other attractions, founded the museum. Don’t miss the St. Johnsbury Anthenaeum just down the street, a private, nonprofit public library and art gallery founded in 1871. The gallery is home to Albert Bierstadt's "Domes of the Yosemite,” a stunning 10- by 15- foot painting that dominates the back wall of the gallery.
Senses sated by architectural, exhibits and art, we headed down to the commercial zone and found a great restaurant for an outside lunch before headed back to The Valley via a lovely ride down Route 5 along the Connecticut River while heading east.