Obituary: Robert Shaw, 1951-2023 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Robert Shaw, 1951-2023 

Former Shelburne Museum curator wrote and lectured extensively on many aspects of American folk art

Published November 6, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated November 6, 2023 at 10:28 a.m.

click to enlarge Robert Shaw - COURTESY
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  • Robert Shaw

The family of Robert Ellsworth Shaw Jr. sadly announces his passing on October 16, 2023, in Owings Mills, Md. He is survived by his wife, Nancy Meigs, whom he married at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont in 1985. They resided in Shelburne until last year when symptoms of Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease emerged, necessitating his retirement to Maryland.

Bob was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 20, 1951, to Ruth and Robert Shaw, and grew up in nearby Simsbury. From a young age, he had a passion for literature and music and played the guitar as a solo artist and in bands throughout high school, during his years at Middlebury College and following graduation in 1973.

He settled in Shelburne with his wife, Nancy, in 1986, where they raised two daughters. He was an avid nature lover. He enjoyed nurturing his garden and watching birds that visited his many bird baths and bird feeders.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Bob was an avid music collector, with a library of over 2,000 albums, spanning folk, rock, blues, jazz, pop and classical genres.

He began his career at the Shelburne Museum as a writer and later became a curator. In 1994 he embarked on a career as a writer and independent curator. He was a critically acclaimed author, curator and art historian who wrote and lectured extensively on many aspects of American folk art. Notably, he was the founding editor of Americana Insights, a nonprofit publication dedicated to the study of Americana and folk art, founded by Jane Katcher and David Schorsch in 2021.

Bob took immense pride in his final book, American Weathervanes: The Art of the Winds, published in 2021 in conjunction with a groundbreaking exhibition he curated with Emelie Gevalt at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. This comprehensive study has since become the definitive resource on weathervanes.

Bob’s passing leaves a void in the hearts of his family, friends and colleagues within the museum and antiques community. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be made in Bob’s memory to Gilchrist Cares ( of Towson, Md.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Nancy, and their two cherished daughters, Emma (Eric) and Georgia; his sister Ellen and her children, Atticus and Elektra (Kent); his brother, David (Clay); and his sister Sarah (Robert) and daughter, Laura (Cruz); and a grandnephew, Noel.

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