By Patricia Reid, Collections Manager
At Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, we are charged with interpreting the history and heritage of the Champlain Valley to ensure a better future for our lake and our community. Our Collections Department manages several thousand objects under Museum custody and works with the Exhibits team and other Museum staff to bring those objects to the public. One exciting and engaging way to do this important work is through digitization. For the past few years, the Museum has been working to digitize its collections and bring them to the public through online exhibits.
In 2019, the Museum has been exploring the life and work of Captain Jahaziel Sherman (1770 – 1844), a Vergennes resident, early steamboat captain on Lake Champlain, and the general manager of the Lake Champlain Steamboat Company. Recently, a private collector in California approached the Museum with an offer to lend two portraits of Jahaziel and his second wife, Harriet Daggett Sherman – the only known likenesses of the pair to survive. These portraits became a key part of our work this year as our Exhibits team developed two exhibits, Jahaziel Sherman’s Steamboats and Steamboats of Lake Champlain, for the Museum’s on-site visitors to highlight this important local history.
Yet the physical exhibits can only tell so much in their limited space, so we developed an accompanying digital exhibit, Jahaziel Sherman of Vergennes, Steamboat Pioneer, available for free online at www.lcmm.org/digital-exhibits. And this winter we’ll be diving into this digital exhibit to explore Jahaziel’s multi-faceted life through a series of blogs.
At the forefront of the steam transportation revolution, Jahaziel built and captained vessels that would change the way people around the globe moved themselves, their products, and their ideas. In addition to his work in steam navigation, Jahaziel was also involved in canal development, local politics, and real estate. We’re looking forward to diving into these fascinating details from his life as well. From elected office to constructing the Stone Block property in Vergennes to operating a hotel at Fort Cassin and more, he was truly a part of our local history. Additionally, his sons continued his maritime legacy on national and international waterways.
Every couple of weeks through the winter season, we’ll be posting more of Jahaziel’s stories, so be sure to check back!
Interested in learning more about the Museum’s digitization project? Collections Manager Patricia Reid published an article in the Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society’s biannual newsletter this fall. Visit https://www.mahsnet.org/newsletter.php to request a copy or contact the Museum for more information!
This blog series and digital exhibit are based on research by Kevin Crisman, George Schwartz, Caroline Kennedy, and museum staff members Eloise Beil, Patricia Reid, and Chris Sabick. This project was supported by a 2019 Collections Grant from the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.