–Written by Activities and Media Liaison, Jesse Saperstein
Some of our greatest history is found in our own backyard. The students learned this lesson in February when they went with Michelle Brown’s History class to the Shaker Museum located on 25 Meeting House Road in Albany. The Shakers were a group of pacifists who broke off from the Quakers in 18th Century England. Even though they did not believe in fighting during times of war, they took care of American soldiers especially during the Civil War when they did not discriminate against Union or Confederate soldiers. (In fact, one of the abandoned buildings on the site of the museum is soon going to become a residence to house soldiers.) They became known as the “Shaking Quakers” due to their enthusiastic movements while attending services of worship. The Shakers were required to remain celibate, which meant that the group was unable to gain new members through reproduction and they had to join from the outside. Occasionally, children did join the Shakers but they entered the group as orphans.
One of the interesting facts the students learned about the Shakers is they loved and embraced any form of technology. Unlike other groups such as the Amish and Mennonite communities, they did not shun technological innovations such as vehicles because these amenities allowed them to complete work much sooner so they could return to their worship. There are only two Shakers left in the entire world, and they live in Sabbathday Lake, Maine. The leaders of the museum were kind enough to provide our students with gift bags before leaving the premises.
The students asked a lot of informative questions and posed in the main building of worship for a group photograph. One of our goals at the College Experience is to give our students as many diverse learning experiences as possible that take them outside the classroom.