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Visit to the Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design

01 Mar 2015
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Archie Bunker House

Back in November I took a trip to Warren, Vermont for a shoot with photographer Michael Tallman at the Archie Bunker House. When you hear “Vermont” and “architecture,” I’m sure your thoughts don’t wander beyond red barns and white churches, but look up Prickly Mountain—the “anti-establishment utopia” of contemporary architecture. The Archie Bunker House is in that neighborhood of modernist homes, and really incredible. The shoot was a blast, and I promised Dave Sellers, the owner and designer of the house, that I would visit the Madsonian, his industrial design museum up the road.

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Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design, Waitsfield, VT

I ran out of time during that trip in November, but a few weeks ago I made good on the promise, returned to Vermont and paid a visit to the Madsonian Museum of Industrial Design in Waitsfield. The temperature outside was somewhere between 0 and 5 degrees, and inside, the museum wasn’t much warmer, but still my friends and I had a great time touring the museum with Mr. Sellers himself as our tour guide.

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The museum has an Industrial Designers “wall of fame,” an assortment of chair designs, vintage advertisements torn straight from magazines and pinned to the walls…

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…lighting, a Mason and Hamlin organ, and a 1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe…

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…an automatic pencil sharpener, Polaroid cameras, and many, many more examples of fascinating vintage and antique industrial design. Most everything on display had a personal story attached, such as this menu from the SS Normandie ocean liner. A couple donated it to the museum after their visit—they’d honeymooned on the ship in the 30s and kept the menu as a souvenir.

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The layout of the exhibit was strictly utilitarian, with minimal to no explanatory text or graphics and the bones of the building which housed it on display. One bit of clever exhibitry I liked was the use of retractable extension cord reels for spot lighting. Need to move something around? Just screw in a new hook.

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The Madsonian currently has an exhibition of classic toy designs, featuring model airplanes and trains (including the two biggest model trains built), an original Mr. Machine, and a toy cement mixer with which a kid could mix actual cement. Apparently the fatal flaw of the toy’s was user error—most surviving examples are welded inoperable by dried cement!

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If you go, be sure to grab a sandwich and a Sip of Sunshine afterward, at the Bridge Street Butchery across the street.

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Thank you to Michael Tallman for all photographs and to Dave Sellers for the museum tour!

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