Siena student catalogues Shaker items

A Siena College junior recently completed a complete inventory of the original and replica artifacts held by the Shaker Heritage Society.

Tara Heffernan, 20, of Clinton, Mass., finished the inventory last month as part of an internship through Siena. Typically the work is reserved for graduate students trained in curatorial work, but Shaker Historical Society officials gave Hefferenan the go-ahead.

They were looking for some help. It was more of a 'what if,' as a possibility. Originally they weren't going to let me do it as an undergraduate and it was my fist experience in inventory, said Heffernan.

Weekly from January to May, and for 40 hours in one week shortly after school ended, Heffernan shuffled through nearly 1,000 artifacts maintained by the society. For each article, she created a description, listed the condition and use, photographed it and catalogued it with an index number. The items were documents, photos, and assortment of tools, clothing, textiles and furniture, to name a few, she said.

The items dated back to the 1800s up to the 1920s and 1930s, when the Shakers left the site. The 770-acre historical district, adjacent to the Albany International Airport, is the first Shaker settlement in the United States, dating back to 1776.

"Over the course of the years the stuff had piled up. People were unaware of just how much stuff belonged to the society," Heffernan said.

More than 100 pieces were unaccounted for in previous cataloging done in the past, she said. Among the more unique items were original chairs built by the Shakers, a grandfather clock that has been at the Pruyn House on Old Niskayuna Road, several beds and an assortment of ornate boxes, well-known works of the Shakers, she said.

So much had to be catalogued that the society and college agreed to extend Heffernan's work into the summer to get as much done as possible before returning home for the summer.

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