Schoharie is covered in eggs. The town hasn’t been vandalized. Business owners and residents are just decorating in celebration of the Schoharie Easter Egg Museum’s reopening.
“The community loves it. People come in and thank us profusely. It’s just a treat,” said Joe Heyman, the curator of the museum, who runs it with his wife Berna. They’ve opened it for the month of April, the first time since 2014.
The daffodil-yellow museum is packed with over 3,000 intricately and whimsically decorated eggs of all sizes. It’s also home to 33 egg scenes out of classic tales and the creator's imagination, from a sprawling circus scene complete with a working carousel to a recreation of “The Last Supper,” and portraits of all the presidents of the United States up to President George W. Bush.
The vast collection was created and cultivated by the late Mildred Vrooman and Elizabeth Warner in 1953. Vrooman was a librarian at the Schoharie Library and was inspired to start an egg exhibit in the library by a book called “The Egg Tree.” Each year, the exhibition grew, as did the level of creativity Vrooman put into them. It eventually outgrew the library and moved to other larger venues around the town, including a building that Vrooman had built on Depot Lane. But when Vrooman turned 91 she decided to build the museum right on her property on Covered Bridge Lane.
She ran the museum for several years before passing away in 2012.
When the Heymans bought the Vrooman home in 2013, they unexpectedly inherited the egg collection.
“When we were looking [at the property] we assumed that the State would take it,” Joe said.
But luckily, it came with the property. Since moving in they’ve taken care of the collection, even fixing some of the broken electronic pieces of the scenes. They wanted to keep it as close to how Vrooman left it, even down to the music that plays.
“I found the recordings and digitized them. What you’re listening to is exactly the soundtrack that she played when it was in the library,” Heyman said.
Joe is a retired NASA scientist and Berna is a retired research librarian from the College of William & Mary and both invested in the museum in different ways. Joe, who is also an accomplished photographer, carefully photographed the collection and made a book to preserve it, aptly named “An Egg-straordinary Folk Art Museum.”
Berna meticulously researched Vrooman’s home, which was built in 1792 and was originally Colonel Peter Vrooman’s home and wrote a book documenting her findings.
But this is the first time since 2014 that they’ve opened the museum to the public.
Back then, they were raising funds to support the local library after it was damaged by Hurricane Irene. Over 3,000 people came out that year and they were able to raise around $20,000 for the library.
They’re hoping to bring in just as many attendees this time, if not more. The Heymans are keeping the museum open from Friday to Sunday until Easter and they’re working with the library again to raise funds for new books and to expand community programming.
Laura Rosenthal, a library trustee and the daughter of the Heymans, has been scheduling egg-centered events around the community to get everyone involved. On Saturday, there’s a Ukrainian Egg Decorating demonstration at the library at 10:30 a.m., then there’s an Easter egg hunt in Lily Park from noon to 2 p.m. and an Artisan Show and Sale at the Old Stone Fort from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Rosenthal, who also helped to plan the community events when the museum opened in 2014, said that this year the entire community is heavily involved. Many of the local businesses have decorated in some way with large egg displays.
“I really hope people come out to see the museum because it’s unlike anything else in the world. It’s an example of what makes our community so unique,” Rosenthal said.
The museum and Vrooman’s careful work will definitely be the main draw over these next two weekends.
Vrooman was a self-taught artist. The way she captured her character’s expressions and the whimsical way she created scenes like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” or “Alice in Wonderland,” is nothing short of ingenious. Her attention to detail cannot be overstated, especially in the circus scene that she made one year. She made clowns, monkeys, seals, elephants and circus-goers, each with handmade costumes and distinct expressions. She also recruited a community member to help make a working carousel, which Heyman had to do some repair work to get it in working order again this year.
At the back of the museum, her painting skills shine perhaps the most. 660 carefully painted eggs hang from a tree-like stand. It’s one of Heyman’s favorite places to be in the museum because no matter how many times he glances at it, something new always pops out. He’s tried to find two that are alike, or two with at least the same pattern and failed each time.
“Do you know an artist who can do work and exhibit all of their paintings or whatever they’re doing and have them all look different? Usually, there’s a trend, a theme. She was able to create every egg differently,” Heyman said.
Upon first entering the museum, it’s easy to get lost in the sheer number of eggs, but what’s even more astonishing is just how much went into each individual piece.
“It looks like so much that it’s mind-blowing. But you’ve got to focus and concentrate on how she did these and you’ll find that the whimsy and creativity is [the] takeaway. If you let the size of all of this, the numbers, blow you away, you don’t notice how much went into it,” Heyman said.
To help people focus on that aspect of the museum, and in the spirit of the Easter season, the Heymans created a scavenger hunt for visitors.
“We do a scavenger hunt for kids and parents have fallen in love with the scavenger hunt. All the adults are doing it, having a ball trying to find everything,” Heyman said.
The museum, which is located at 112 Covered Bridge Lane, on the corner of Route 443 and Route 30 in Schoharie, will be open for two more weeks from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday and from April 19-20. It will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on Easter. Admission is $10 for a family, up to four, and $5 per adult, and $2 per child.
For more information visit the Schoharie Easter Egg Museum on Facebook or email [email protected]