The Rokeby Museum, a national historic landmark located in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, charts four generations of New England social history dating back to the late eighteenth century, by looking at a house that the Robinson family first inhabited then. Today, the house has been converted into a museum that maintains an expansive collection of the family’s belongings (from the 18th through the 20th century), including furniture, letters, books, clothing, artwork and photographs. The collection includes more than ten thousand family letters, as well as invaluable diaries and newspapers that provide a historical context for life in the house. The site has also received recognition because the house was a pivotal location on the Underground Railroad during the 1830s and 1840s.
Some of the letters mention fugitive slaves by name and provide additional detail. With support from NEH, the museum has bolstered its collection with a new exhibit, “Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont.” The collection explores the lives of Simon and Jesse (two runaway slaves who worked on the property) and connects their experiences to the broader picture of what it meant to be a fugitive slave in the Northeast in the mid-nineteenth century. The permanent exhibit incorporates audio selections of Simon and Jesse’s voices in a fifteen-minute dramatization, as well as extensive visual displays.