The Dorset Historical Society's museum is in the former home of Elsa W. Bley, longtime Dorset resident, artist and teacher. Ms. Bley generously willed her house to the Society. Bley House became the organization's permanent headquarters in 1991. Between September 2005 and September 2006, major renovations were made to the building and it was reopened as the splendid museum space visitors experience today.
Portions of the collection are showcased in the museum's five main galleries in rotating exhibits focused on different themes. The collection is outstanding for the diversity of histories represented:
Republic of Vermont coins (1785-1788) made at the nearby Harmon Mint
Artifacts representative of the town's long-running marble industry
Stoneware produced at the local Fenton Potteries (1800-1830s)
Iron tools forged at 19th century foundries in East and North Dorset
Works by the prominent Dorset stencil artist, Jessica Bond
Works by Dorset painters from the period when the town was a mecca for artists (1885-1950) through the present day
An extensive native fern collection
Photographs, postcards, household utensils, decorative objects, farm tools, textiles and clothing that belonged to Dorset families over many generations
Pictures, memorabilia and artifacts from the town's 12 school districts (1834-1950)
Photographs, programs, playbills and archival materials from The Dorset Playhouse and The Caravan Players
Maps, manuscripts, books and other archives make the museum a valuable resource for people doing genealogical work or other historical research. One rare treasure in the collection is the extensive work of the Reverend Parsons S. Pratt, pastor of the Congregational Church of Dorset, Vermont (1856-1896), who recorded family histories of many local people.
For those wishing to acquaint themselves with homes and other buildings in the town's historic district and the wider villages of Dorset and East Dorset, a WALKING/DRIVING Tour guidebook is available at the museum. In 1989, the Society published Dorset: in the shadow of the marble mountain, the definitive history of the town, by Tyler Resch. This publication and others, such as the booklet, “Walking Driving Tour,” are all available at the museum Gift Shop.
Elsa Bley's camera
Stenciled theorem by Jessica Bond
Maidenhair fern collected 1915,
by E. H. Terry
from Dorset Village School - 1962