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The Fruitlands Museums in Harvard, Mass., is opening this season with a new exhibit of Shaker furniture. Each of the items is characterized by the simple lines achieved through the Shaker craftsman's sense of balance in design. The exhibit includes miscellaneous pieces, together with tables and chairs, some of which were built for specific uses.

The Fruitlands Museums consist of four different museums. Bronson Alcott's ''Fruitlands'' is an 18th-century farmhouse containing memorabilia of the leaders of the transcendental movement -- Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Land, and others.

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The Shaker House was built in the 1790s by Shakers of the former Harvard Shaker village, where it was used as an office. Moved to its present location, it now forms the setting for products of Shaker handicrafts.

The American Indian Museum contains a selection of North American Indian relics, including prehistoric implements and specimens of historic Indian arts and industries.

The picture gallery houses two collections of paintings -- one of portraits of itinerant artists of the first half of the 19th century, the other of landscapes, mainly the work of the Hudson River School, the first American school of painting.

The museums are situated on a hillside overlooking the Nashua valley toward Mt. Wachusett and Mt. Monadnock. They are open from May 30 to September 30, Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. The fee for admission is $2 for adults, 50 for children ages 7 through 16. For more information, contact Richard S. Reed, director, Fruitlands Museums, Prospect Hill, Harvard, Mass. 01451.

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