Exhibition - Joel Barber and the Modern Decoy

Saturday, Dec 14, 2019 from 10:00am to 5:00pm


The culmination of five years of research, a new exhibition at Shelburne Museum explores the life, collection and artwork of Joel D. Barber (1876-1952), a pioneering wildfowl decoy collector who saw in them a unique American art form.

Featuring more than 100 decoys, drawings, historical photographs and watercolors from Shelburne Museum’s extensive collection and archives, the exhibition takes a comprehensive view of Barber’s fascination with decoys, starting with a red-breasted merganser decoy he came across in a sail loft on the South Shore of Long Island in 1918. He wrote and illustrated a groundbreaking book, Wild Fowl Decoys, published in 1934, where he introduced his designs for the perfect “modern” decoy. The book remains a primer for collectors today. The exhibition features plans he drafted for so-called “modern” decoys.

“As an early collector, Joel Barber’s life was subject to considerable folklore. This exhibition sheds light on and paints a picture of the collector based on insights from the hundreds of documents in his archives housed here at Shelburne Museum,” said Chief Curator and Francie and John Downing Curator of American Art Kory Rogers. “Barber was truly devoted to what he called floating sculpture, and committed to sharing his passion with the public through exhibitions, his publications and publicity.”

Shelburne Museum is home to the first major public collection of decoys amassed as artwork. Joel Barber’s collection of more than 300 decoys forms the nucleus of this renowned collection. Barber’s extensive archives of more than 600 documents is also housed at the museum.

Exhibition Dates: Saturday, September 14, and runs through January 12, 2020,

Location: Colgate Gallery, Pizzagalli Center for Art and Education


May 1 – October 31*
Tickets are good for two (2) consecutive days.
Adult: $25
Senior / AAA Member: $23
Youth (ages 13-17): $14
Child (ages 5-12): $12
Under 5: FREE
College Student (ages 18-100): $15

VT Resident (w/license): $15
VT Child (ages 5-17): $8

Family Day Pass (2 Adults & Children): $65

Active Military: FREE

*Discounts – May through October only. Discounts cannot be combined.

Reduced admission for Vermont residents provided thanks to a generous donation by Lois McClure.

November 1 – April 30:
Adult: $10
Youth (ages 5-17): $5
Child (ages under 5): free

Active Military: FREE

Admission is always free for Shelburne Museum members.