Curators mounting exhibitions of Shaker objects typically walk a fine line. Do they display these objects as functional artifacts or as exceptional works of art? Shaker in Chicago, mounted by the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA), attempted to do both, a challenging task, and was not entirely successful in achieving its goal. Although the Shakers produced objects highly regarded by scholars and collectors for their aesthetic value, such as chairs, tables, and oval boxes, they did not think of their products as works of art. Instead, they saw their creations as reflections of their religious and social beliefs as well as means to shape and control behavior in Shaker communities.

Shaker in...

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