SHELBURNE, Vt. — One thing museums exist to remind us of is that objects can be — objects generally are — more interesting than their functions. It doesn’t matter if what museums choose to show is called art, or craft, or higgledy-piggledy-pop: The point is the objects, sympathetically presented, can connect us with states of being where curiosity and imagination are aligned in the most fertile parts of the brain.
The object pictured above, on display at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, is a circa 1784 punch bowl. Punch bowls have their uses, and I’m all for them. But what else is it?