In the event of a government shutdown, American History will remain OPEN through at least Saturday, October 7, by using prior year funds. Visit for updates.

Lake life and the living's easy

One hundred and sixty years ago on August 9, 1854, Henry David Thoreau published Walden, a transcendental tribute to solitude, simplicity, and lakeside living. While some staff enjoy vacations with lakeside views and a good read, those of us at our desks sometimes browse the collection for objects that remind us of warm breezes and sunny days on the sand. If you're in the same boat, check out these lake-related collections objects gathered by Curatorial Assistant Mallory Warner. 

A tan work of art with black illustration of a river with a boat by a river bank with trees and throngs of people

"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A painting of several picture sitting by a river. There is a bridge in the background and the people appear to be rich because of their clothes and their goat-drawn mini chariot.

An object styled to look like an exterior of a lake house. It has a brown roof, a railing in the front, a scenic picture on the front, brick detailing resembling a planter with small, artificial leaves growing out of it, and a small white sign. A cord can be seen trailing out of the shot.

Two wooden panels are juxtaposed. They each have a large label attached advertising apples. They feature illustrations of lakes nestled between mountains and have bold, colorful fonts.

"I was rich, if not in money, in sunny hours and summer days, and spent them lavishly; nor do I regret that I did not waste more of them in the workshop or the teacher's desk." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A square object depicting trees in front of a lake with mountains in the background and a turquoise sky. The edges are very white and distinct.

A painting in a brown wooden border. Two people sit in the grass under a tree in a rich green meadow. Sheep graze and buildings and homes can be seen stretching into the background. A short fence surrounds a lake next to the sheep. A man sits in a boat with oars.

"A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is continually receiving new life and motion from above. It is intermediate in its nature between land and sky." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A print on yellowed paper. There is a body of water on which there are boats. Land is in the background, which is littered with small structures. There are people overlooking the water on the land in the foreground.

The cover of a song which is mostly blue to represent the night sky with a teal ocean in the bottom fourth of the page. A sailboat sails towards a white moon low in the horizon while a smiling woman's image is placed nearby. There is white text at the top of the sheet and below her image.

Mallory Warner in the Division of Medicine and Science has also blogged about mending broken hearts and including a female scientist on a museum label. Want more Thoreau? The National Portrait Gallery has a daguerreotype portrait of the author.