The Museum’s founder, John S. Williams, Sr., had a strong interest in the tools connected to various agricultural and industrial pursuits and products.
Whether it was the anthropological approach to collecting cultural artifacts that he learned as the Chairman of the Board of the Museum of the American Indian or a fantasy escape from his career on the New York Stock Exchange, it is where his collecting of Shaker material began. The tools, equipment, and machinery collection at the Museum is second to none in its coverage of various trades practiced by the Shakers. The collection of nineteenth-century woodworking machinery made by the Shakers, including a thickness planer, a drill press, a tongue-and-groove machine, a four-sided shaper, a jointer, a mortising machine, lathes, and saws, is particularly strong.
Hand tools support the understanding of Shaker cabinetmaking, chair making, carpentry, coopering, oval box making, sieve making, dipper making, broom making, tailoring, weaving, knitting, cloak making, hat making, shoe making, fancy goods production, basket making, bonnet making, leather tanning, harness making, cooking, laundry work, book binding, printing, poplarware making, blacksmithing, foundry work, garden seed production, herbal medicine production, and a variety of other agricultural pursuits. These trades are usually supported in the Museum’s collection by examples of products these tools produced and by documentation in manuscripts and printed works.