On a recent trip to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, I paid a visit to the Museum of Everyday Life, 2 hours northeast of Burlington in Glover. I knew nothing about the place, only that it was mentioned on Atlas Obscura, and I was looking for interesting places while on vacation in the area.
We rolled up to a weather-beaten barn next to a small house, “Museum of Everyday Life” advertised on a small sign. We parked in front, for lack of more formal parking accommodations, no one else was there. The front door was open, and the lights were off, but a sign indicated where the lights were, asking that we turned them off when we left. If you’ve ever spent any time in Vermont, you wouldn’t find this level of accessibility devoid of need for security to be peculiar in the least.
Places like this are often ruled by the honor system, a box for donation, a box for payment for goods, and no oversight to make sure you pay. They just assume you’re going to be a good neighbor and do the right thing. While in the Northeast Kingdom we visited three museums and an antique shop that were set up this way. “Do you have a dollar? I want to buy a postcard.” The girl’s mom looked in her purse and found no singles, so rather than just taking one while mom was in the other room, the girl went without. In an era where human decency and good neighbors feel like a rare commodity in America, one can truly appreciate these expressions of good faith.
Inside the museum was an odd collection of novelties and curiosities. It had that “roadside attraction” sort of vibe, the sort of place where you would expect to find a two-headed snake on display, then get a bowl of chili while filling your gas tank and getting directions. It was part quirky museum and part avant garde art exhibit, poking fun at concepts of normalcy. Exhibits on display were in categories like “knots” and “lists,” the former displaying things like necktie knots, the latter displaying a collection of scribbled lists found on the streets of Queens, NY and a map of where each was found.
We rather enjoyed playing in the peeping Tom dressing room setup, where my partner would try on wigs and hats while I spied on her through the two-way mirror. All in all we spent a leisurely 45 minutes wandering around the place, enjoying all this clever regional curiosity had to offer… then were greeted by a resident rooster as we returned to the car, off to get creemees somewhere in Hardwick.
…meaning we were getting the creemees, not the rooster.
At the end of our tour I grabbed three postcards. However, I didn’t have three singles. So I took the cards, and when I got home I mailed them a fiver… because I owed them money, regardless of whether they knew it or not.