Category Archives: Natural History

New York’s Highest Museum Exhibit Wins MANY Award


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MANY Award - Whiteface ExhibitThe highest museum exhibit in New York won an Award of Merit in the ‘Innovation in Interpretation’ category from the Museum Association of New York (MANY). Awarded at MANY’s annual conference on March 31st, Whiteface Mountain: The Exhibit was recognized for its engaging programs that enlivened participation in the community. There was a large and diverse pool of nominations this year. Other winners include The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City.

A total of 15 projects, ranging from exhibitions to educational programs, received recognition. Eight of these received an Award of Merit, the highest honor, given to institutions or individuals whose projects represent outstanding contributions to the field and overall innovation and excellence. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Bring Back the Mastodons!


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Peale's Exhuming the MammothIt is time for New York State to boldly go where no state has gone before and go back to the future to resurrect the now extinct mastodon. The effort to bring the mammoth back from extinction recently was the cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Russia and Japan are working to create mammoths. New York should not be left behind in the de-extinction race. I hereby challenge Governor Cuomo to launch a new “Manhattan Project” so we are the first to bring the paleolithic era to life through the creation of Mastodon Park, our own Ice Age animal, the mastodon. Continue reading

Finger Lakes Museum Appoints Executive Director


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Finger Lakes MuseumThe Finger Lakes Museum’s Board of Trustees made a new appointment at its March 18th board meeting. Philip Lentini, of Penfield, who had been serving as the Museum’s Vice President for Advancement since late 2013, was elected to a seat on the board and appointed to the position of Executive Director.

He will be in charge of managing the Museum’s day to day business operations and will continue to direct its fundraising programs. He previously served nine years as a Vice President of the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Continue reading

Gotham Unbound:
The Ecological History of Greater New York


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Gotham Unbound Ecological HistoryGotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York (Simon & Schuster, June 2014) is Ted Steinberg’s sweeping ecological history of one of the most man-made spots on earth, from Mannahatta to Hurricane Sandy.

This is a heavily researched and well-written book that recounts the four-century history of how hundreds of square miles of open marshlands became home to six percent of the nation’s population – that’s 64,464 people per square mile.

Steinberg brings a unique view of the metropolitan area, not just one of a dense urban goliath but as an estuary once home to miles of oyster reefs, wolves, whales and blueberry thickets. That world gave way to an onslaught of humanity managed by thousands of ecological actors from Governor John Montgomerie, who turned water into land, and John Randel, who imposed a grid on Manhattan, to Robert Moses, Charles Urstadt, Donald Trump, and Michael Bloomberg. Continue reading

Fort Ticonderoga’s Dendrochronological Research


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Dendro PavilionFort Ticonderoga has announced that it has received a grant from The Perkin Fund which will support dendrochronological research on the 19th-century Pell house located on the Fort Ticonderoga peninsula.

According to Beth Hill, Fort Ticonderoga President and CEO, the grant will provide funding for vital research to help Fort Ticonderoga date the construction of the Pell home, known as the Pavilion. The result of the analysis will help inform the future interpretation and use of the historic structure. Continue reading

History Lecture Series at Whallonsburg Grange


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The-GrangeAn Adirondack history lecture series continues at the Whallonsburg Grange Hall, 1610 NYS Route 22 in the Champlain Valley. Presentations on the early settlement, the philosophy and invention of the wilderness ideal, the history of the forest preserve and boats and boating are included in the schedule.

The series “Our Wild Home” will take place on Tuesday nights at 7:30. A donation of $5 is requested, students always free. More information is at www.thegrangehall.info. The schedule of talks is: Continue reading

Environmental History:
The Great Atlantic River Fish Migrations


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Running SilverEver wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.

John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters. Continue reading

Exhibit of Glens Falls Winter Scenes Opens


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South StreetThe Chapman Historical Museum has opened a new exhibit of fourteen S.R. Stoddard original albumen photos featuring local winter scenes.

Included are views of snow-covered streets in Glens Falls as well as two stereo views of Lake George. Titled “Frost Work,” a term used by Stoddard, the small exhibit features images of the 1870s — a time when winter transportation consisted of sleds and sleighs.  Even the horse drawn trolley ran on runners.  Continue reading

NYC’s Water Supply:
An Environmental and Political History


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Empire of Water  - History of NYC Water SupplySupplying water to millions is not simply an engineering and logistical challenge. As David Soll shows in his history of the nation’s largest municipal water system, Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of The New York City Water Supply (Cornell Univ. Press, 2013), the task of providing water to New Yorkers transformed the natural and built environment of the city, its suburbs, and distant rural watersheds.

Almost as soon as New York City completed its first municipal water system in 1842, it began to expand the network, eventually reaching far into the Catskill Mountains, more than one hundred miles from the city. Empire of Water explores the history of New York City’s water system from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, focusing on the geographical, environmental, and political repercussions of the city’s search for more water. Continue reading

Groups Oppose Proposed Easing Of Cell Tower Rules


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Cell Towers on Prospect MountainA coalition of 10 New York environmental and historic preservation organizations yesterday urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to take away the rights of state and local governments to regulate the size, shape and visibility of communications towers – especially in scenic and historically significant areas.

The groups sent a joint letter to the FCC, urging federal officials to recognize that scenic beauty and historic significance are the backbone of local tourism.  They asked the FCC to reject the notion that expansions of 10 percent or more in the height or width of cell towers would have no impact on the environment or historic preservation. Continue reading

Ageless Billy Spinner, Folk-Weather Specialist (Part 2)


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02 Spinner NYHSpinner was known for his long-range predictions, but when he nailed the latest one―the mild winter he predicted came true, and six inches of snow fell in central New York in March 1937―he gained many new admirers.

On the heels of that success, Billy predicted that July would be hot and dry, and no rain would fall until the second Friday of the month. When a light rain fell early Saturday morning, he commented, “I was off just a couple of hours.” The summer played out as predicted, and his star continued to rise. Continue reading

The History, Sea Life, and Environment of NY Harbor


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Heartbeats in the MuckThe award winning book, Heartbeats in the Muck: The History, Sea Life, and Environment of New York Harbor has been updated and reissued in paperback. In Heartbeats, author John Waldman covers the arc of history of New York Harbor from its pristine origins through the ravages of the industrial era to its remarkable comeback today.

First published in 1999, the volume won a New York Society Library Award. The revision includes an epilogue that brings the story of the Harbor to 2012, the 40th Anniversary of the critically important Clean Water Act, and includes the ambitious ongoing oyster restorations; alien species such as Asian shore crabs, zebra mussels, and snakehead fish; the effects of climate change; rehabilitation of the legendarily polluted Gowanus Canal, and even a return of bald eagles to Manhattan. Waldman’s work on New York Harbor also resulted in a Norcross Wildlife Conservation Award and, in 2012, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Conservation Award. Continue reading

Ageless Billy Spinner, Folk-Weather Specialist


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01 Spinner NYHClimate change; global warming; superstorms; extended droughts; the hottest year ever; December tornadoes; on and on it goes. Changes are happening everywhere. Below-zero temps four times before Christmas 2013. Now, a chill factor of 35 below—and 48 hours later, temps in the mid-30s and rain is expected. With all the usual craziness, we do benefit from modern forecasters using the most advanced technology to predict the weather, helping us to avoid any big surprises, or to at least prepare.

The same was true of weathermen seventy-five years ago: they did their best to predict what the weather would bring―days, weeks, and even months in advance. But they weren’t alone in doing so. Competing against them were country prognosticators who sometimes did better than the latest technology. Continue reading

Fracking Photo Project Returns To Antique Methods


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Nick BrandrethThe ease and affordability of digital photography has won over almost everyone on the planet. Kodak went bankrupt in 2012, darkrooms have disappeared, and film is an extirpated species. Reacting to the ethereal impermanence and pervasive newness of digital photography, some photographers have gone back in time to reawaken antique photography processes.

Whether it’s love for a printed-on-real-paper tangible object, a longing for the time when saying you were a photographer meant you had arcane training and chemistry skills, or a lust to accumulate gear, the movement to recreate daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other obscure 19th century processes is well underway. The popularity of the contemporary photographic antiquarians who embrace the old methods is documented in a 2011 film aptly called, “Artists and Alchemists.” Continue reading

Adirondack Museum Lecture Series Begins Sunday


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AdirondackMuseum-CabinFeverSundays_Jan5-2014_LostSkiAreasCoverFrom snowmobiles to Iroquois culture, from North Creek to Old Forge, the Adirondack Museum’s “Cabin Fever Sundays” series will present a wide-ranging look at life in the Adirondacks – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

The series kicks off with “Lost Ski Areas of the Southern Adirondacks,” featuring speaker Jeremy Davis, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 5, at View, on Route 28 in Old Forge, NY. Admission is free for museum members, students, and children; $5 for non-members. Continue reading

Spring Exhibitions at the New-York Historical Society


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The "New York Girls," 1910In Spring 2014, the New-York Historical Society will present a range of exhibitions that will examine New York City architecture, fashion and photography through the lens of the legendary Bill Cunningham; the early history of African American basketball before the dawn of the National Basketball Association; the second installment of Audubon’s Aviary, showcasing New-York Historical’s collection of Audubon watercolors; and an exhibition of quilts and textiles created during the Civil War. Continue reading

1878: The Vice President, First Lady Go Fishing


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3a22497rNews in 1878 that Vice President William Almon Wheeler of Malone, a recent widower, would be taking First Lady Lucy Hayes fishing in the Adirondacks without her husband, gave New Yorkers something else to talk about besides President Rutherford B. Hayes’s latest feud with New York’s U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling.

Wheeler had been disappearing into the Adirondacks to fish since he was a poor boy growing up in Malone, the county seat for Franklin County, located on the Canadian border. By the time he became a lawyer, state legislator, bank executive and railroad president, his annual fishing trips became newsworthy. As early as 1864, newspapers reported that Wheeler was heading into “the South Woods” or “the great Southern Wilderness” with a group of his political and business friends for a week of fishing. Continue reading

New York State’s Most Destructive Earthquake


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Massena damageIn the early morning hours of September 5, 1944, an Associated Press agent in Albany received information about an earthquake in northern New York. “Anybody killed?” he asked. When informed no one had been hurt, he showed little interest. Likewise, when the state geologist in Albany was notified that a whole lotta shakin’ was goin’ on, he said, “There is no need to be alarmed. It is improbable they [the quakes] will be anything but quite small.”

You win some, you lose some. In this case, both the reporter and geologist lost―big-time. They missed the call on what still stands as the most destructive earthquake in New York State history. Continue reading