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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Bennington Museum Features History and Films

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, January 13, 2006

Bennington, Vt. – The state’s rich labor history of past centuries and a present day focus on filmmakers are set to capture attention during separate presentations at the Bennington Museum.

On Jan. 19 at 7 p.m., a free talk focused on the glory days of a Burden Iron Works manufacturing mill in Shaftsbury will be offered by industrial archaeologist Victor Rolando. The Bennington Historical Society is sponsoring the talk. Rolando will speak at the museum’s Ada Paresky Education Center.

Burden Iron Works founder and owner Henry Burden launched the firm during the 1800s in Troy, N.Y., and produced horse shoes using patented equipment that he designed and that changed the industry.

After two decades of successful operation in Troy, Burden opened an ironworks facility in Shaftsbury; by 1863, a blast furnace at the Vermont-based mill was believed to be the largest capacity furnace of its kind to operate within the state.

Rolando’s presentation is expected to focus on the Vermont enterprise as well as Burden’s Troy forges, which, during the Civil War, had the capacity to produce Union Army horseshoes at a rate of about one shoe per second. Rolando plans to include information about the fate of the Shaftsbury factory as well.

Rolando is a research consultant and industrial archaeologist who lives in Vermont. He served as a United States Marine during the Korean War and earned a bachelor’s degree in American History at Empire College in Albany, N.Y.. In 1980, Rolando received a master’s degree in History and Political Science from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, N.Y.. Rolando was an employee of the General Electric Aerospace firm in Pittsfield, Mass. for 35 years. He currently works as an industrial archaeology consultant for stabilization and restoration projects involving 19th and 20th century blast furnaces, foundries, charcoal, lime, and brick kilns, and waterpower systems located throughout the Northeast. He is the author of “200 Years of Soot and Sweat: The History and Archaeology of Vermont’s iron, Charcoal, and Lime Industries.” Rolando received a 1993 Award of Merit for the book. The award is the highest honor awarded to an individual from the American Association for State and Local History.

On Jan. 20 at 7 p.m. the work of filmmakers Walter Ungerer and Michael Fisher will be the focus during the fourth installment of the museum’s Work of Vermont Filmmakers series. Cartoonist Stephen Bissette will moderate the presentation.

Three films will be shown at the Ada Paresky Education Center; the cost of attendance is $5.

Ungerer’s film “The Animal” is described as “a film with little explanation and a forlorn supernatural feeling.” The film focuses on a couple who meets at a railroad station and travel to a desolate farmhouse, where unusual occurrences plague the woman. The film features stark, snowy landscapes and explores loss, fate, and the “unknowable,” according to information provided by the museum. The 1976 film received several awards, including acknowledgment by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Ungerer is a New York City native who studied architecture, painting, and sculpture at the Pratt Institute and Columbia University. He received a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in 1958 and a master’s degree in 1960 from Columbia. Ungerer worked as a freelance cameraman and editor for six years before becoming an independent producer with The Tasmanian Devil in 1964, according to information provided by the museum. Ungerer has created 14 films and eight video works, and in 1976, founded the Montpelier, Vt.-based dark Horse Films. Ungerer’s works have been featured at film festivals world-wide and have earned numerous awards.

Fisher’s film “Falls” follows a New England farmer as he sees his daughter’s passion to walk the tightrope turn into an isolating force. The daughter’s drive to succeed creates hardship for the farmer, who is fearful of interfering with her tightrope quest. Human conflict is at the heart of the film.

Fisher’s latest film “Stick Season” will be premiered during the event. The film focuses on a young man’s attraction to a witch and how that attraction catapults the family farm into jeopardy.

Fisher is a Vermont native who graduated in 1999 from the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While at the school, Fisher wrote, directed, and produced the short film “Noir.” Fisher’s additional films include “Grieving,” “Love of My Life,” “Burgundy,” and “A Cry For Help.”

Bissette is a Vermont native and cartoonist with an illustrating career spanning two decades. Bissette’s most notable creation is DC Comics’ “Saga of the Swamp Thing,” which ran from 1983-87. In addition to his work for DC Comics, Bissette’s illustrations have appeared in other comics, novels, and short stories. Bissette is co-creator of several comic characters and has written articles, interviews, reviews, and fiction. Bissette worked with Joe Citro on a “Vermont’s Haunts” map and “The Vermont Ghost Guide.”

The Bennington Museum is located at 75 Main St. [Route 9], and is one mile west of downtown Bennington’s Route 7/Route 9 intersection. The galleries are closed due to renovations until the end of February but public programs continue to be offered at the site. Information about upcoming public events may be acquired at a www.benningtonmuseum.org Internet web site.

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