Tag Archives: Documentary

NYC Documentary Film Screenings Set


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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) of New York City will host a film series, “Across New York”, that highlights stories from across the City’s five boroughs on how the city came to be and the people who helped shape it.

All screenings will be held at the TRIBECA Film Center at 375 Greenwich Street, NYC; tickets can be purchased online. The cost is $5 per program for Friends of HDC, Seniors and Students, and $10 for the general public.

AT HOME IN UTOPIA
Thursday, November 1, 6PM
The acclaimed documentary At Home in Utopia. was written and directed by Michal Goldman. This film tells the story of the Eastern European, Russian and Polish garment workers who joined together to create a “Bronx Bohemia” known as the Coops. This cooperative apartment complex was built in 1925 on the corner of Allerton Avenue across from Bronx Park. The Coops were what some would consider the ideal community; based on the philosophies of communal living and designed with the ideas of a bucolic setting in mind, the Coops were a “dream home” to many. The residents wanted a design aesthetic that was uncommon in New York at the time; bright, airy and spacious, which was representative of the change that was sought to promote public health, safety and a sense of community. The residents of the Coops were also politically active as advocates for racial equality during a time of severe distress, violence and social injustice. Join us for this special screening and panel discussion of At Home in Utopia, where several of the former residents will discuss their lives in the Bronx. Directed by Michal Goldman, 2008, 133 minutes.

FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEATMARKET
Thursday, November 8, 6PM
Join the Historic Districts Council for a night of nostalgia as we view the documentary film Florent: Queen of the Meat Market. Florent, a 24-hour diner located in the Meatpacking District, was once the place to be. This legendary spot attracted artists, club-kids and the blue-collar workers who sought decent French-American cuisine at the wee hours of the morning, but who mostly flocked to
this space because of the energy the owner, Florent Morellet, exuded and brought to the establishment. Florent was also one of the leaders of the movement which successfully got the Gansevoort Market neighborhood landmarked in 2003. Florent was unfortunatelyforced to close down in 2008 due to rent increases and development in the area that would not allow for the business to sustain itself. Following the screening, Florent, will discuss his time owning his successful namesake business in an area that has drastically changed over the past twenty-five years as well as how he has remained an activist and leader within his community and beyond. Directed by David Sigal, 2009, 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is not rated.

CONEY ISLAND
Wednesday, November 14, 6PM
“Coney Island” is an award-winning documentary that delves into the extensive history of this seaside community, from its discovery in the 17th century to its ongoing and sometimes heartbreaking evolution. The film illustrates the affinity that the public had for Coney Island as a summer getaway, as evidenced by the 250,000 people that once populated its shores
on any given summer weekend. Also covered in the film is the development of the three major amusement parks (Steeplechase Park, Luna Park and Dreamland) that once inhabited Coney Island, along with the sometimes bizarre and fascinating stories that go with them. There will be a discussion following the film. Directed by Ric Burns, 1991, 1 hour.

This series is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Additional support is provided by Council members Margaret Chin, Inez Dickens, Daniel Garodnick, Vincent Gentile,
Stephen Levin and Rosie Mendez.

Thomas Mott Osborne Film Premiere Theater Mack


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Who is Thomas Mott Osborne? And what is The Castle? These questions will be answered at the Auburn, NY premiere of a new documentary about Thomas Mott Osborne on Sunday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m. at Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum. Filmmaker Neil Novello and Osborne biographer, David Connelly, will discuss the film after the screening. This program is free and open to the public.

Thomas Mott Osborne’s statue stands in front of the Auburn, NY Police and Fire Departments. The Castle refers to the 105 year-old Portsmouth Naval prison that stands empty on a bluff in the Piscataqua River separating Maine and New Hampshire adjacent to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. But what do these two (Osborne & The Castle) have in common?

It is written in the Navy’s history of the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle that Thomas Mott Osborne “introduced a new era and a new viewpoint to the Naval prison.”  From 1917 to 1921, Auburn prison reformer and resident, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the only civilian commander of the Naval Prison. Osborne hadn’t served in the Navy.

“Osborne is either a nut or a visionary,” says Pulitzer Prize winner and Auburn resident, David Connelly, who worked with Award-winning filmmaker Neil Novello from Maine on what is the only video documentary ever made about the Auburn industrialist turned humanitarian in the early 20th Century. The always-controversial Thomas Mott Osborne brought scandal, prison reform and a movie crew to the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle. ”Osborne’s command of the Naval Prison just maybe the culmination of Osborne’s prison reform career,” says Mr. Novello who started on this documentary five years ago.

Novello’s filmmaking journey started with his visit to the Syracuse University’s Bird Library to do research on Osborne. He went through box after box of Osborne’s history at the Naval Prison, which provided many great photos, newspaper articles, as well as Osborne’s writings. It was the Bird Library librarian who told Novello about Osborne biographer, David Connelly.

In the course of a year, David Connelly generously gave of his research time and family time to be a part of this documentary. Connelly knew Frederik (Erik) Osborne, TMO’s grandson, who had the remaining two reels of the Osborne-produced propaganda prison silent feature movie. “The Right Way” was filmed at the Naval Prison using prisoners as extras.

The other important person who gave generously of her time to Novello was Eileen McHugh, Director of the Cayuga Museum of Art and History. The Museum had a copy of Osborne in a 1926 experimental sound movie filmed at the Case Laboratories in Auburn where Osborne mentions the Portsmouth Naval Prison and talks about his reform ideas.

McHugh provided Mr. Novello an area in the basement of the museum to videotape David Connelly’s interview and McHugh also secured, via the Cayuga Museum’s archive, photos of early Auburn as well as Osborne and his family.

To understand Commander Osborne’s Naval prison experience, Novello needed to include Osborne’s family and his work at Auburn and Sing Sing state prisons in New York where he disguised himself as a prisoner to find out what life was like inside. When Osborne went to the Naval Prison, he disguised himself as a prisoner for a report to the Secretary of the Navy. While Commander of the Naval Prison, again Osborne disguised himself as a sailor and was a coal shoveler on the USS North Dakota as a way to understand Navy life.

Osborne became known for his Mutual Welfare League system where prisoners manage prisoners. The Mutual Welfare League was used at Auburn State prison and in Sing Sing state prison as well as the Naval prison.

With the additional photos provided by Ossining Historical Society in New York, and movie film (of Naval sea exercises and World War One) provided by the National Archive, Novello had the visual ingredients for his documentary about Osborne’s experience at the Naval Prison which in a way, culminates his prison reform career.

“It’s all about Osborne’s perspective and his thinking”, says Novello. “I did not want to make a run-of- the-mill, academic-type documentary with pros and cons. It’s about Osborne but told through his letters, film and David Connelly’s wonderful interview.”

Novello wanted to première TMO@The Castle in Auburn at the Cayuga Museum of Art and History’s newly restored Theater Mack. “It’s most fitting to show my documentary right here,” says Novello.

Novello has also produced a DVD called, The Castle: Stories of the Portsmouth Naval Prison which includes TMO@The Castle and a commentary to go with the remaining reels of Osborne’s feature movie, The Right Way.

New Director for George Eastman House


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George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film announced today the appointment of Dr. Bruce Barnes as the Ron and Donna Fielding Director. Barnes will assume his role as eighth director of the museum—the world’s oldest museum of photography and one of the largest motion-picture archives—in October 2012.

Barnes is the president and founder of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation (ADA1900), a private foundation based in New York City, that works independently and in collaboration with museums across the United States to foster understanding and appreciation of American decorative art from the period around 1900.

Barnes is coauthor and editor of The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmermann (2011), which was copublished by ADA1900 and Yale University Press. ADA1900 also copublished The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs (2008), an award-winning scholarly book that accompanied an exhibition of the same title co-organized by ADA1900 and the Milwaukee Art Museum. The exhibition traveled to the Dallas Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, Huntington Art Collections, and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Barnes was chief executive officer of Element K, a Rochester-based company and pioneer in online learning, from 2000-2004, overseeing more than 800 employees. Over the course of his career, Barnes has held senior executive positions at Ziff Communications Company, Ziff Brothers Investments, Wasserstein Perella & Co., Reservoir Capital Group, and QFS Asset Management. He received a B.A., magna cum laude, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

“I am honored to be selected to serve as the next director of George Eastman House,” said Barnes. “The range of its activities and opportunities is exhilarating. George Eastman House is a vital part of Rochester’s community. The museum’s unparalleled collections—in the areas of photography, cinema, and their technologies—and curators make important contributions on the international cultural scene, and its leading post-graduate programs advance the imperative of photography and film preservation around the world.”

“Having devoted most of the last seven years to collaborating with major museums across the country and furthering art scholarship, I am eager to apply my strategic and management skills to leading George Eastman House,” he said. “The house and a great many of the museum’s objects fall precisely within my longstanding interest in American art, decorative art, and architecture of the period from 1876 to 1940. My background in innovative online education will be invaluable to the creation of a virtual museum that will provide global access to its superb collections. I look forward to returning to Rochester and working with the Eastman House board of trustees and staff to advance the museum’s tradition of excellence and service to the community.”

“George Eastman House is an international treasure, a source of local pride, and a complex organization,” said Thomas H. Jackson, chairman of the George Eastman House Board of Trustees. “In Bruce Barnes, we have found the perfect individual to continue the museum’s progress and build the local, national, and international infrastructure and connections that will be essential to Eastman House’s future.

“Our collections and location, important in themselves, are also the springboard for essential work in preservation and an understanding of how the image can inform as well as reflect society,” Jackson said. “Dr. Barnes understands these interconnections in an impressively deep way and has the vision to take our past accomplishments and turn vision into reality. His extraordinary talents across so many dimensions are matched by his passion for George Eastman House and its potentiality. That’s a wonderful, winning, combination.”

Barnes’s appointment is the outcome of an international search process. He succeeds Dr. Anthony Bannon, who retired from George Eastman House in May after 16 years in the position.

“The Search Committee feels extraordinarily fortunate to have found in Dr. Barnes the combination of skills, experience, and passion needed for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the George Eastman House,” said James A. Locke III, the George Eastman House trustee who chaired the Search Committee. “He is quite a remarkable fit for us with his excellent academic background, financial acumen, with prior positions with top Wall Street financial firms, and tested leadership as a CEO in Rochester.

“He is also an engaged collector with scholarly and passionate interests in the arts and museums,” Locke said. “Dr. Barnes can and will be an energetic and transformational leader who surely will make a great difference at George Eastman House and, in the view of the Search Committee, he will make a great difference in the presence and importance of the museum and its varied missions here and globally. We are thrilled with his appointment.”

About George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film

George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film combines world-class collections of photography and film with an active program of exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and the National Historic Landmark house and gardens of George Eastman, the philanthropist and father of popular photography and motion picture film. Eastman House is also a leader in film preservation and photograph conservation, educating archivists and conservators from around the world through historic-process workshops and two graduate schools, the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and the Photographic Preservation and Collections Management master’s degree program. Eastman House, which was established as an independent non-profit museum in 1947, is one of the world’s foremost museums of photography and the third largest motion-picture archive in the United States. The museum intertwines unparalleled collections, totaling more than 4 million objects, of photography, motion pictures, and cameras and technology, as well as literature of these fields of study. Learn more at eastmanhouse.org

NY Wine History: Finger Lakes Museum Doc Premier


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The Finger Lakes Museum is hosting the premier showing of its documentary film series, Vine to Wine; Savor our Finger Lakes, at Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua on Friday, September 21st. The 6:30 p.m. event includes an assortment of tapas and wine tastings from regional wineries as well as presentations by the wine professionals who created the program series. Attendees can also bid on “Finger Lakes Experience” silent auction packages and participate in a raffle.
Part One of the Vine to Wine series, which highlights the history of grape growing and winemaking in the Finger Lakes Region, will be presented at four different venues across the region in October and November. Through film, live presentations, and wine and juice tastings, people can learn how the region developed into the wine destination that it is today.

For additional information and program schedule, or to purchase tickets for the premier, log on to www.FingerLakesMuseum.org or call 315-595-2200. Reserved ticket prices are $15 per person or $20 per person at the door.

The Finger Lakes Museum is being planned to be the premier cultural and natural history resource dedicated to the enjoyment, education and stewardship of the Finger Lakes Region, and to freshwater conservation.

The Finger Lakes Museum is chartered by the New York State Education Department and is incorporated as a not-for-profit tax-exempt organization. For more information or to make contact, log on to www.FingerLakesMuseum.org.

Saratoga Battlefield Announces Photo Contest


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The Saratoga National Historical Park’s photo contest will held from now through October 31, 2012. The winning photo will be featured on the park’s 2013 Annual Pass and the photographer will receive a free 2013 Annual Pass. Once all photos have been submitted, the winning photo will be decided by a panel of Saratoga NHP employees by November 9.  Next year marks the 75th anniversary of Saratoga National Historical Park (Saratoga Battlefield).

Contest Rules:

Contest is open to all ages
Picture must be taken within park boundaries: Saratoga Monument,
Schuyler House, Victory Woods, Saratoga Battlefield Scenic, wildlife, park events, park structures (monuments,historic houses, etc.) photos will all be accepted

Entries must be submitted by 4 pm October 31, 2012

Limit to one (1) photo per contestant

Photo(s) must be submitted by e-mail to megan_stevens@nps.gov

Photo Specifications: File in JPEG format with 300 DPI resolution. Each photo must be no larger than 3 MB in file size Contestant must provide: Full name, phone number, brief description (no more than 100 words) of where and when photo was taken

All photos submitted for this contest automatically become property of the National Park Service; photographers will be credited. Anyone who derives 5% or more of their income from taking photos are ineligible Saratoga NHP employees and their immediate family members are ineligible

For more information about this contest or other park events, please call Megan Stevens at 518.670.2982 or visit: http://www.nps.gov/sara/parknews/newsreleases.htm.

Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture


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A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].

Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.

The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.

At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution; his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

1934: A New Deal for Artists Exhibit in Albany


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During the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “new deal for the American people,” initiating government programs to foster economic recovery. Roosevelt’s pledge to help “the forgotten man” also embraced America’s artists.

The Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) enlisted artists to capture “the American Scene” in works of art that would embellish public buildings across the country. They painted regional, recognizable subjects – ranging from portraits, to cityscapes and images of city life, to landscapes and depictions of rural life – that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work, community and optimism. Continue reading

Call for Entries: 2012 Erie Canalway Photo Contest


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Entries are being accepted through Friday, September 7, 2012 for the 7th annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Winning photos will be displayed in the 2013 Erie Canalway calendar, which will be available free of charge in December.

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit prints and digital images in four contest categories: Bridges, Buildings and Locks; For the Fun of It; On the Water; and the Nature of the Canal.

The contest captures and shares the beauty, history, people, and distinctive character of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, which is comprised of the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga/Seneca, and Champlain Canals, and their historic alignments, and surrounding communities.

You can download official contest rules and an entry form online.

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York, encompassing the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities. Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission, in partnership with the National Park Service, collaborates with government agencies, communities and organizations to protect and promote the canal corridor for all to use and enjoy.

Photo: 2011 First Place Photo Winner “The Locks at Lockport” by Stephen Bye.

Seneca Ray Stoddard Exhibit Opens at NYS Museum


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A new exhibition has opened at the New York State Museum showcasing the works of Adirondack photographer and conservationist Seneca Ray Stoddard.

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery and includes over 100 of Stoddard’s photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard’s books and several of his paintings.

There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum’s collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

Born in Wilton, Saratoga County in 1844, Stoddard was no doubt inspired by the Adirondacks at an early age. A self-taught painter, he was first employed as an ornamental painter at a railroad car manufacturer in Green Island, across the Hudson River from Troy in Albany County. He moved to Glens Falls (Warren County) in 1864, where he worked with sketches and paintings until his death there in 1917.

Early on he sought to preserve the beauty of the Adirondacks through his paintings but then became attracted to photography’s unique ability to capture the environment. He was one of the first to capture the Adirondacks through photographs. He used the then recently introduced wet-plate process of photography. Though extremely cumbersome by today’s standards, the technique was the first practical way to record distant scenes. It required Stoddard to bring his entire darkroom with him into the Adirondack wilderness.

His renown as a photographer quickly grew once he settled in Glens Falls, which also became his base camp for his explorations of the Adirondacks. He studied the Adirondacks intensely over a 50-year period.

Stoddard’s photos showed the challenges travelers faced in getting to the still undeveloped wilderness, along with their enjoyment of finally reaching their destination. His writings and photographs indicate that he was especially skilled at working with people from diverse economic backgrounds in a variety of settings. This was especially important as he used his photos to capture the changing Adirondack landscape as railroads were introduced and the area became an increasingly important destination for the burgeoning middle-class tourist, but also for the newly wealthy during the “Gilded Age.”

His work stimulated even further interest as he promoted the Adirondacks through his photographs and writings on the beauty, people and hotels of the region. Stoddard’s photographs showed the constancy of the natural beauty of the Adirondacks along with the changes that resulted from logging and mining, to hotels and railroads. As unregulated mining and logging devastated much of the pristine Adirondack scenery, Stoddard documented the loss and used those images to foster a new ethic of responsibility for the landscape. His work was instrumental in shaping public opinion about tourism, leading in part to the 1892 “Forever Wild” clause in the New York State Constitution.

The State Museum purchased over 500 historic Stoddard prints in 1972 in the process of acquiring historic resources for the Museum’s Adirondack Hall. They included albumen prints from Stoddard’s own working files, many with penciled notes. Nearly all are of the landscapes, buildings and people of the Adirondacks taken primarily in the 1870s and 1880s.

An online version of the exhibition is also available on the State Museum website at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/virtual/exhibits/SRS/ .

The State Museum will present several programs in conjunction with the Stoddard exhibition. There will be guided tours of the exhibition on September 8 and December 8 from 1-2 p.m. Stoddard will also be the focus of Family Fun Day on September 15 from1-4 p.m.

Established in 1836, the New York State Museum is a program of the State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Stoddard’s “Indian Encampment, Lake George, 1872″.

Roxy Rothafel: Legendary American Showman


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American Showman chronicles the life of Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882–1936), the prolific movie palace showman and radio star who helped transform the moviegoing experience, radio broadcasting, and American popular culture to become an international celebrity.

Ross Melnick’s American Showman: Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry (2012, Columbia University Press) is the first book devoted to Rothafel’s multifaceted entertainment career. Among Roxy’s notable popular culture contributions include the first showings of Robert Flaherty’s documentary “Nanook of the North” and the German film that reinvigorated the a genre, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” – oh, and there was also those Rockettes, and that mention in Cole Porter’s “You’re On Top.”

Continue reading

Bungalows of Rockaway: Film Screening, Discussion


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The Historic Districts Council (HDC) will show the 2010 documentary film, “The Bungalows of Rockaway,” produced by Jennifer Callahan and Elizabeth Logan Harris follwed by a panel discussion.

The film highlights the rich history of the Rockaway bungalows. Although of the more than 7,000 bungalows dotting the peninsula in 1933, fewer than 500 remain today. 
The documentary, narrated by Estelle Parsons, features rare archival footage, maps, and interviews with historians, prominent New Yorkers, and several of the longtime residents and vacationers.

In 2012, HDC named the Far Rockaway Beach Bungalows to its Six to Celebrate list, six historic New York City neighborhoods that merit preservation as priorities for HDC’s advocacy and consultation over a yearlong period. HDC is working with the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association to get the remaining bungalows of Beach 24th, 25th and 26th Streets on the State and National Registers of Historic Places and to raise awareness about this irreplaceable part of New York City’s history.

The screening will be followed by a “Q & A” session and discussion with Richard George, executive director of the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association; Nancy Solomon, director of Long Island Traditions and author of the National Register nomination; David Selig, owner of Rockaway Taco; Jeanne DuPont of Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, andthe filmmakers. The program will be moderated by journalist Eve M. Kahn.

The event will be held on Monday, June 11, at 6:30 pm at Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue at East 2nd Street, Manhattan.  Fees: $10 for the general public, $5 for Friends of HDC, seniors and students. Advance reservations are required. Tickets can beordered via Paypal through hdc.org or by calling 212-614-9107. A limited number of complimentary tickets will be available to Far Rockaway residents. Please contact ftolbert@hdc.org for more information.

Photo courtesy Historic Districts Council.

Cooperstown: Milo Stewart Photo Exhibit Opens


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The New York State Historical Association Research Library and The Cooperstown Graduate Program has announced the opening of a new exhibition celebrating the late Milo Stewart’s work, entitled Reflections of Home: Photography by Milo Stewart. The exhibition highlights Cooperstown landscapes and portraits taken by Mr. Stewart between 1965-1992. Split into three sections emphasizing Stewart’s eye for finding beauty in the ordinary, the exhibition includes quotations from his family and friends reflecting on his work as a teacher, friend, and artist. Reflections of Home opens May 16 and is free to the public.

Developed by second-year Cooperstown Graduate Program students Tramia Jackson, AshleyJahrling, Amanda Manahan, and Jenna Peterson, the exhibit is the culminating project of their Master of History Museum Studies coursework. Guided by Dr. Gretchen Sorin, the students produced the exhibition from concept to installation. “It has definitely been a learning experience,” says Jahrling. “But having the support of the program and the Stewart family has helped make this exhibit a wonderfully collaborative effort. We’re happy to share it with the greater Cooperstown community.”

Milo Stewart discovered his love for photography while growing up in Buffalo, New York. After graduating from Buffalo State University and marrying his high school sweetheart, Ruth, he taught high school English and Social Studies and helped his students incorporate photography in their reports. In 1961, he joined the staff at NYSHA and The Farmers’ Museum as an education associate. He went on to become the Director of Education and later the Vice President of NYSHA and The Farmers’ Museum. Over the course of twenty years he taught generations of teachers, local historians, and Cooperstown Graduate Program students. At the request of the Director of the New York Council on the Arts, he took on an important project documenting architecture and historic Main Streets throughout New York. He published several exhibition catalogues including Temples of Justice: Historic Churches of New York and At Home and On the Road, a collection of photographs from his travels through New York and abroad.

The exhibition opens May 16, 2012. The public is invited to see the exhibit at the library free of charge. The library’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Saturday hours are currently 1 to 4 p.m.

Photo: Augur’s CornerCooperstown, New York, 1988 by Milo Stewart. 

Website Highlights Free New York Documentaries


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The popular website DocumentaryStorm.com is celebrating its 1st anniversary, and is recommending several documentaries available on the site about New York City for New York History readers. These documentaries that focus on a couple of seldom visited spaces in New York life, the sewer system and the fire department, along with one of New York City’s most visited places. DocumetaryStorm.com is dedicated to finding providing free, full-length documentaries from around the web.

The New York City Fire Museum

NYC’s Fire Department plays an indispensable role in keeping New York’s citizen’s safe. While September 11th, 2001 shone a very bright and hot media light on the department – rightfully highlighting their training and sacrifice – the department has a sordid and quite remarkable history dating back many centuries. For many decades the firefighters were all community volunteers. This documentary explores the department’s origins and traces the various incarnations, training, and equipment through the 1800′s to today. When was the first fire truck used? How were fires put out in the early 1800′s? What did the firemen used to wear to protect them against fire?

New York from the Underneath

This is a rare and unique glimpse into the sewer system that runs below New York City. Beautifully shot, captivating, and gritty, the documentary traces the underbelly of New York from the Bronx to Queens. Urban Historian Steve Duncan leads the journey through a maze of winding tunnels, man-made waterfalls, and local wildlife. The scars of history’s past is evident in the brickwork and drawings on the wall. We explore more than two centuries of urban planning: a generational patchwork. Half vision, half compromise. The city’s first enclosed sewer system is located on Canal Street and survives intact to this day. Duncan sleeps in the sewers by day and leads us on an entertaining 25 minute tour by day. New York City: like you’ve never seen her before.

The Empire State Building Shall Rise

Proving that the Great Depression was no match for New Yorkers; the Empire State Building continued to rise: past the height of the Eiffel Tower – which had been the tallest building in the world for decades. Past the height of the Chrysler Building – which had been the tallest building for barely a year. The Empire State would stand as the tallest building in the world for over 40 years. It is still the tallest building in New York, following September 11th, 2001. Remarkable historical footage of an American treasure.

Documenting the Birthplace of Mathew Brady


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What follows is a guest essay by Glenn L. Pearsall who recently confirmed the birthplace of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady in Warren County, NY. The essay originally appeared in the Warren County Historical Society newsletter.

On November 10, 2011 the Town of Johnsburg Historical Society commemorated the birthplace of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. They had a cast iron historic marker made and placed at the entrance of the C. Ernest Noxon Community Center in Wevertown, Warren County, NY. Brady was born in Johnsburg Township about 4 miles south of Wevertown in 1822 or 1823. A story of that dedication ceremony was featured in the Glens Falls Post Star and then picked up by the Associated Press. From there the story was distributed nationally and online versions of the story appeared across the country including the Wall Street Journal, New York Daily News and the New York Times.

The research into documenting Brady birthplace in Johnsburg began in 2006 and reads like a detective story or an episode of the PBS show “History Detectives”.

Mathew (only one “t”) Brady was an internationally known figure and much of what we know of the Civil War and famous leaders of the 19th Century comes from his photographs. Mathew Brady’s photographs of the dead at the battle of Antietam, featured in his New York City Gallery on October 1862, brought home to America for the first time the true horror of the Civil War. His corps of photographers documented that war with tens of thousands of photographs. His February 9, 1864 picture of Abraham Lincoln was featured on the U.S. $5 bill since 1928 and when that bill was re-designed in March of 2008 a new picture of Lincoln was used, taken by Brady that same day in 1864. Although most famous for his Civil War work, Brady’s Gallery of Illustrious Americans featured luminaries from Andrew Jackson to Andrew Carnegie. Brady’s work helped record and preserve American history, and yet, until just recently, the birthplace of this famous American remained a mystery.

Mathew Brady’s personal letters indicate that he was born north of Lake George, NY of “poor Irish immigrant parents”. Most Brady biographies are silent as to his exact place of birth. Others list his birthplace as Lake George, or just Warren County, New York. Local folklore here in the southeastern Adirondacks has said for years that he was born in Johnsburg, NY, but there was no documentation to substantiate that claim.

In 2006 I began research for my first book Echoes in These Mountains: Historic Sites and Stories Disappearing in Johnsburg, An Adirondack Community (Pyramid Press, 2008, recipient of a “Letter of Commendation” from the 35 county Upstate History Alliance in 2009). In writing that book I took on the challenge to try to actually document the place of Brady’s birth.

The Federal Census in the early 1800s does not include the names of children. I began, therefore, with Mathew Brady’s father. It is commonly acknowledged that Mathew Brady died in New York City January 15, 1896. With his name and date and place of death it was easy to obtain a certified copy of Mathew Brady’s death certificate from the New York City Dept of Health (New York City Death Certificate #1746). That certificate lists his father as Andrew and mother as Julia. The death certificate notes his place of birth only as “U.S.”.

An inspection of the 1830 Federal Census of towns north of Lake George indicated that the only Andrew Brady listed was in the Census for the Town of Johnsburgh (then spelled with a “h”). That census lists Andrew Brady with 5 children; three boys and two girls. Two of those boys are listed in that 1830 census between the ages 5 to 10. Most sources list Mathew Brady as being born in 1822 or 1823 so he would have been 7 or 8 in 1830. The only reference to an exact date of birth is on www.NNDB.com which lists his date of birth as January 15, 1823, but there is no documentation listed for this and the exact date of January 15th may be confused with his date of death on January 15, 1896, 72 years later).

The next challenge was to determine exactly where he might have been born. In the early 1980s I had visited regularly with Lewis Waddell, then Town of Johnsburg Historian (now long since deceased). Lewis had told me about where the old foundation site was, but we never got around to visiting it together so I was not sure of its exact location. In the Johnsburg Historical Society files, however, I found a sketch that Lewis Waddell had made as to the location of the foundation. It was not to scale, however, so it took some exploring. Bushwhacking around the base of Gage Mountain my wife Carol and son Adam and I located the old road that went from the Glen to Wevertown (the road was later straightened and is now NYS RT 28). Referencing the other foundations along that old road that Waddell had sketched in, we located what I believe to be the foundation of the house where Mathew Brady was born in 1822 or 1823.

The actual site of Brady’s birthplace lies 4.1 miles south of Wevertown off of NYS Rt 28. The house foundation lies about 275 yards off the west side of the road (GPS N 63 degrees 36’00.6”x W 73 degrees 52’44.4”) on private property.

It has been written that Brady left the area at age 16 (in 1838 or 1839). Some sources indicate that his first stop was Saratoga Springs, N.Y. where he met famed portrait painter William Page. Brady became Page’s student and in 1839 the two of them travelled to Albany, N.Y. In 1844 they continued south to New York City where Brady’s instructions were supplemented under the tutelage of Samuel F. B. Morse (portrait painter and inventor of the single wire telegraph system). Morse was enthusiastic about the new art of capturing images through daguerreotype having met Louis Jacques Daguerre in Paris in 1839. Soon Brady was also excited about the new process and established his first photographic studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street. In 1849 he established a studio in Washington D.C. so that he could photograph the famous men of his time there.

In 1896, depressed by the death of his wife Juliet (“Julia” Handy) 9 years earlier and suffering from alcoholism and loneliness, Mathew Brady died in the charity ward of the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Penniless at the time of his death, his funeral was paid for by veterans of the famous 7th New York Volunteer Infantry. He is buried in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Photos: Above, Glenn Pearsall at the re-discovered Mathew Brady foundation in Johnsburg; middle, a hand drawn map by former Town of Johnsburg Historian Lewis Waddell showing the possible location of the Brady homestead (not to scale); below, the newly installed historic marker in nearby Wevertown, NY. (Photos courtesy Glenn Pearsall).

Women’s Rights NHP Showing ‘Top Secret Rosies’


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Women’s Rights National Historical Park will show the documentary film Top Secret Rosies this Friday and Saturday, March 30 and 31, at 12:00 noon.

Top Secret Rosies documents the lives of the female mathematicians who designed ballistics tables and programmed computers for the United States Army during World War II. This film is 60 minutes long.

The film is being shown as part of Women’s Rights National Historical Park’s first Winter Film Festival. The park exists to commemorate and preserve the events of the First Women’s Rights Convention that was held in Seneca Falls in 1848. “We are proud to be part of the National Park system, and we invite everyone to join us in celebrating our shared history and culture through film,” said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne.

The park is also showing the film as part of its celebration of Women’s History Month in March. “We are inspired by the courage of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and countless other women and men who struggled for equal rights in this country,” said Duchesne. “Their stories continue to resonate with people across the globe.”

Top Secret Rosies is approximately 60 minutes long and intended for a general audience. All Winter Film Festival movies will be shown at 12:00 noon on Fridays and Saturdays, November through April, in the Guntzel Theater, located at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park Visitor Center at 136 Fall Street in downtown Seneca Falls. Because film lengths vary, visitors are encouraged to call if they are interested in a particular showing. All park programs are free and open to the public. For more information, please visit call 315.568.0024.

You can also follow the park’s social media sites for Facebook and Twitter to learn more about their upcoming events and programs.

William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story:
An Interview with Exec Producer Dan Swinton


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The passage of the Volstead Act and prohibition against intoxicating liquor caused a profound change in American culture by breaking the traditional mold of heroes and anti-heroes. Popular media has romanticized the anti-hero “gangster” role, and some of the greatest actors of the movie-making era have portrayed names like Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Bugsy” Siegal and “Machine Gun” Kelly on the silver screen. In many instances, thugs, authorities and officials become the puppets of the crime boss, or the authorities become as violent as the criminals do.
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Historic Saranac Lake to Hold Annual Meeting


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Historic Saranac Lake will hold its Annual Meeting on November 1 at 7:00 PM, in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory Museum in Saranac Lake. The meeting will feature a presentation of historic films by Jim Griebsch, featuring newly digitized footage of the Trudeau Sanitorium in 1929. The Kollecker film footage is shown courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library.

An independent film and video director, Jim has spent time digitizing, restoring and editing 16mm spools of film from the 1920’s through the early 60‘s which have been archived in the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Adirondack Room.

Born in Saranac Lake, Jim is an award winning producer, director and director of photography with numerous film, television and interactive credits to his name during his 40+ year career. He co-founded and owned Heliotrope Studios Ltd., in Cambridge, Mass. He worked on the feature film Cold River in Saranac Lake. His work has taken him around the world. Jim and his wife Carol have returned to Saranac Lake to live and as he continues to travel to Boston to work with MediaElectric Inc., on a variety of projects.

Jim Griebsch recently joined the Board of Directors of Historic Saranac Lake. In its 31st year, Historic Saranac Lake is an architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from its center at the Saranac Laboratory Museum.

The meeting is open to all members of Historic Saranac Lake and the public at large. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact Historic Saranac Lake at (518) 891-4606.

New York Photo League Exhibit Slated


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Drawing on the depth of two great Photo League museum collections, The Jewish Museum in New York City and the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio are collaborating on an exhibition of over 140 vintage photographs. The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951, a formidable survey of the group’s history, its artistic significance, and its cultural, social and political milieu, will premiere at The Jewish Museum from November 4, 2011 through March 25, 2012. The Radical Camera exhibition will then travel to the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH (April 19 – September 9, 2012); the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, CA (October 11, 2012 – January 21, 2013); and Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (February 9 – April 21, 2013).

Artists in the Photo League were known for capturing sharply revealing, compelling moments from everyday life. Their focus centered on New York City and its vibrant streets – a shoeshine boy, a brass band on a bustling corner, a crowded beach at Coney Island. Many of the images are beautiful, yet harbor strong social commentary on issues of class, child labor, and opportunity. The Radical Camera exhibition explores the fascinating blend of aesthetics and social activism at the heart of the Photo League.

The innovative contributions of the Photo League during its 15-year existence (1936-1951) were significant. As it grew, the League would mirror monumental shifts in the world starting with the Depression, through World War II and ending with the Red Scare. Born of the worker’s movement, the Photo League was an organization of young, idealistic photographers who believed in documentary photography as an expressive medium and powerful tool for exposing social problems. It was also a school with teachers such as Sid Grossman, who encouraged students to take their cameras to the streets and discover the meaning of their work as well as their relationship to it. The League had a darkroom for printing, published an acclaimed newsletter called Photo Notes, offered exhibition space, and was a place to socialize, especially among first-generation Jewish-Americans.

The first museum exhibition in three decades to comprehensively look at the Photo League, The Radical Camera reveals that the League encouraged a surprisingly broad spectrum of work throughout extraordinarily turbulent times. The organization’s members included some of the most noted photographers of the mid-20th century – W. Eugene Smith, Weegee, Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott and Aaron Siskind, to name a few. The Photo League helped validate photography as a fine art, presenting student work and guest exhibitions by established photographers like Eugène Atget, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston, among others.

These affecting black and white photographs show life as it was lived mostly on the streets, sidewalks and subways of New York. Joy, playfulness and caprice as well as poverty and hardship are in evidence. In addition to their urban focus, Leaguers photographed in rural America, and during World War II, in Latin America and Europe. The exhibition also addresses the active participation of women who found rare access and recognition at the League.

The Radical Camera presents the League within a critical, historical context. Developments in photojournalism were catalyzing a new information era in which photo essays were appearing for the first time in magazines such as Life and Look. As time went on, its social documentary roots evolved toward a more experimental approach, laying the foundation for the next generation of street photographers. One of the principal themes of the exhibition is how the League fostered a multifaceted and changing identity of documentary photography. “A mixture of passion and disillusionment characterizes the Photo League’s growth, which led photographers away from objective documentary images and toward more subjective, poetic readings of life,” said Mason Klein, exhibition co-curator and a curator at The Jewish Museum. “The tenets of truth in documentary photography laid down by League members were also challenged by them and ultimately upended by members of the New York School,” he added. Catherine Evans, exhibition co-curator and a curator of photography at the Columbus Museum of Art, observed that “This museum partnership is an extraordinary opportunity to showcase two in-depth collections. Because the images continue to have relevance today, it is especially important that the exhibition will be seen in four U.S. cities, reaching as broad an audience as possible.”

In 1947, the League came under the pall of McCarthyism and was blacklisted for its alleged involvement with the Communist Party. Ironically, the Photo League had just begun a national campaign to broaden its base as a “Center for American Photography.” Despite the support of Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Paul Strand and many other national figures, this vision of a national photography center could not overcome the Red Scare. As paranoia and fear spread, the Photo League was forced to disband in 1951.

The exhibition has been organized by Mason Klein, Curator of Fine Arts, The Jewish Museum, and Catherine Evans, William and Sarah Ross Soter Curator of Photography, Columbus Museum of Art.

Photo: Sid Grossman, Coney Island, c. 1947, gelatin silver print. The Jewish Museum, New York. Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery.

NY Suffrage Writer Hits PBS in September


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Writer Louise Bernikow uncovers the long Suffrage Campaign in New York City, a place she says “where the urban landscape became a prop for incomparable political spectacle. The Statue of Liberty, the transit system, Fifth Avenue, Wall Street, parks and streetcorners– all became venues for a complicated, shifting alliance across lines of race and class, ending in a historic victory in 1917.” Continue reading