The Museum has a large and important Shaker Collection. It was begun in 1926 when the Church Family, Watervliet, Shakers sold their buildings to Albany County for the Ann Lee Home. The Shakers assisted Museum curators in gathering and documenting the materials from that community.
With help from the remaining Shakers, the Shaker collection at the Museum continued to grow during the 1930s and 1940s as the number of Shakers diminished, and they were forced to give up their buildings and large land holdings. During these years, the South Family at Watervliet closed and the remaining Families at Mt. Lebanon closed.
Artifacts included in this extensive collection include furniture, stoves, baskets, oval boxes, buckets, textiles and clothing, seed and herb packaging material, architectural elements, cans and bottles. The comprehensive Shaker collections at the Museum comprise not only finished products, but also the tools and equipment used to produce the products. These include basket molds, bonnet molds, farming equipment, presses for printing herb labels, presses for pressing herbs, choppers, looms, spinning wheels, sewing equipment, and casting patterns. Even raw materials such as splints for basket weaving, palm for making bonnets, and rolls of Shaker chair tape are present.
Material associated with the daily life of this communal society are also represented. Laundry tubs and equipment, kitchen equipment, school desks, the only surviving Shaker fountain stone, and prints and photographs of various Shaker communities, and transportation items, including a coffin carrier, are just a few of these other items.