The Brethren's Workshop was the center of a range of the North Family's industries, including their packaged seed business, broom-making, and cabinetry. Built in 1829, it has been through many changes over time. Those changes can be seen not only in the building itself, but in signatures, sketches, dates, markings and other remnants left by its inhabitants.
Supported by a Vision Grant from Humanities NY, the museum documented and researched these "writings on the walls" to produce new research for public programs taking visitors inside the workshop, and future programming use.
In 1985-6, Dr. Michael Coe of Yale University and Dr. Ernest Wiegand of Norwalk Community College led the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village Archaeological Project to document, inventory, and assess structures and sites at the North Family historic site. Many buildings were to be altered through stabilization and rehabilitation or were in a deteriorated or threatened condition. A segment of that project focused on “surficial and subsurface archaeological field investigations at several sites.” The report included measured drawings, research, and condition reports.
In 2016, the “Brethren’s Workshop: Writing On the Walls” project was envisioned as an update and expansion to that earlier work, thirty years later, by filling in the narrative gaps surrounding the wall remnants through research and new photography. Over 300 photographs were taken during project work, which lasted from July 2016 through October 2016, with additional research and compilation ongoing through December 2016.
Tours inside the workshop on April 8 and 22, 2017, examined these pieces of the past up close and personal, while participants learned more about some of the stories that they tell us. Following each tour, participants were invited to leave their own messages by writing on the walls virtually using the Skitch app for iPad.