New England Maple Syrup Museum
The promo literature sums it up: "The most complete collection of sugaring artifacts in existence." There are several museums in Vermont devoted to maple syrup; but New England Maple Syrup Museum appears to be the largest.
The museum starts off to the left of a large gift shop, with a sign: "Maple is the best known of America's oldest Agricultural commodities, yet it probably is the most misunderstood." We anticipate this sequence of exhibits will correct our lifetime of maple syrup intellect built on lies and half-truths.
Mr. Doolittle, the animatronic host, seemed to be broken today. He sits at the top of a ladder, a stuffed dummy in fall Maple syrup season garb. But throughout the museum you can push buttons and hear the elderly ramblings of maple syrup veterans describing the history and the evolution of the syrup gathering and refining process.
Over 100 feet of murals show Indians harvesting maple sap in the snow, wearing only loin cloths. Pilgrims trade blankets for satchels of syrup with local tribes. The displays of old sap buckets and barrels have animal taxidermy placed around them for atmosphere. Shelves are piled high with historic metal syrup and sugar containers. Kids can turn on an evaporator vat and hear a simulation of its operation.
We push little red buttons and hear old people's voices complain about how hard it is to make maple syrup: "...not burn it up but roon it burn the bottom of so it'll buckle in that light. You gut to be right on your toes when you get ready to haul off you got to pour off the surp there and boilin' and feedin' the steams rollin' right off keep puttin' the wood in and you keep putectin them logs to the flues there and when you get to be surp...." Visitors listen carefully to extract all the gooey goodness from the narration.
Museum oddity: The E.T. Spruce Burl, a knobby growth which appears to sprout antennae, propped against the wall of one gallery, next to a bag of Vermont Maple Mulch.
The best exhibit in the museum is a display rack, in the tasting room, that shows empty bottles of name-brand "maple syrup" over the years, with little signs that reveal that the maple syrup in them has dropped from 4 percent (1977) to 2 percent (1987) to 0 percent (1997). Corn syrup rules!
The tasting room is next to the gift shop, where bottles of 100 percent "Northern Comfort" are ready for purchase.