Tag Archives: Material Culture

Albany Insitute Exhibit Features Former Director Rice


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Norman Rice 1966The Albany Institute of History & Art is currently exhibiting, Sixty Years and Still Collecting: Norman S. Rice. The exhibition includes highlights of the Albany Institute of History & Art’s remarkable collection of artwork, historical objects, and research materials assembled by Director Emeritus Norman S. Rice. He has served as the facilitator, and in some cases the actual donor, of many of the Institute’s greatest treasures.

Since his arrival in 1953 as curator, to the present day and his somewhat less demanding role as director emeritus, Rice has kept the Institute and Albany’s rich cultural history forefront in his thoughts and actions. In the exhibition Sixty Years and Still Collection: Norman S. Rice, a sample of Rice’s favorite objects is the focus of attention. Over 45 items are displayed and they demonstrate Rice’s passion for regional art and history, they showcase the wide variety of items Rice brought into the collection and they reveal the many ways Rice acquired objects for the Institute.  Continue reading

‘Three Parlors’ Exhibit Features Art History At Lyndhurst


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Herter suite and Courbet“Three Parlors,” a new exhibition using three Victorian parlor suites to track the development of a new American identity during the 19th century, will open at Lyndhurst on June 20th and will remain open through the end of 2013.

Lyndhurst is fortunate to retain the furnishings of the three families who occupied the estate over the past 175 years. The three suites of parlor furniture at Lyndhurst were installed in 1838-42, 1865 and 1882 and were created during a century in which the United States struggled to establish its national identity. Continue reading

Pick-Up Trucks Focus Of New Farmers’ Museum Exhibit


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1922_Model T_Richard Walker_8732The pickup truck is an icon of American values and virtues: it is honest, hard working, durable, and reliable. It is also the best-selling vehicle in the United States today.  The Pickup Truck: America’s Driving Force, an exhibit opening Saturday, May 25 at The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York, examines the fascinating story of this uniquely American favorite. The exhibition runs through October 31.

The exhibit follows the route of the pickup truck from its beginnings when demand for pickup trucks actually preceded their supply. Until 1900, passenger vehicles were modified by dealers and buyers to create cargo wagons – replacing horse-drawn farm wagons. Continue reading

Coney Island Souvenirs Throughout The Years


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Gambling wheel, 1900-1920. Wood, glass, metal. Purchase, 1995.2In May 1654, the early settlers of Gravesend, Brooklyn purchased what is now known as Coney Island from the local Native Americans. Back then it was just a beach, but by the 1840s it had morphed into how many of us know it now: a vacation getaway right in our own city.

Roads and steamships around that time made travel time from New York City around two hours, making Coney Island an accessible beach destination for anyone.  By the 1920s it was even more popular, after the subway made its debut. But visitors weren’t content with just beaches and hotels. There were games to be played, rides to be ridden, and souvenirs to take home! Here are a few from the New-York Historical Society‘s collection.
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State Museum to Host Russel Wright Exhibition


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manitoga2An exhibition featuring the work and philosophy of renowned industrial designer Russel Wright will open May 4, 2013 at the New York State Museum. Russel Wright: The Nature of Design explores Wright’s career from the 1920s through the 1970s and features approximately 40 objects along with photographs and design sketches.

On display through December 31 in the Crossroads Gallery, the exhibit was first organized by and presented at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz from August 2012 to March 2013. The exhibit includes objects such as wood serving bowls and spun aluminum trays designed Pre-World War II as well as Wright’s more experimental and innovative Post-World War II designs, including earthenware plates, bowls, pitchers, and vases. Continue reading

Great Souvenirs From The 1939 World’s Fair


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Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.1928

Salt and pepper shaker, 1939. Plastic. New-York Historical Society. Gift of Bella C. Landauer,

On April 29, 1939, the largest world’s fair of all time came to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York. The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair promised visitors a look at “the world of tomorrow.” And part of that included cool souvenirs.

The Perisphere and the Trylon, known together as the “Theme Center,” were two of the main draws of the 1939 World’s Fair. Connected to the Trylon’s spire was at the time the world’s longest escalator, and inside the Perisphere’s dome was a diorama called “Democracity,” which depicted the city-of-the-future. But you could take these structures home as fun salt shakers! Continue reading

CFP: Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums Conference


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MAAM_logoboxThe Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums (MAAM) is now accepting submissions for session proposals for the fall 2013 Annual Meeting.  This year’s meeting, themed Back to the Future: Where Do We Go From Here?, will be held in Washington DC, October 20 – 22, 2013.

The Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, represents museum professionals, organizations, institutions and museum service providers, in a forum to enhance the image of museums and educate individuals on an array of field specific study and programs. The MAAM annual meeting is an important gathering providing an opportunity to share and exchange ideas. Continue reading

Request for Pictures of Ulster County Veterans


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Friends of Senate House are seeking pictures of Ulster County’s veterans and active duty military to use in their holiday decorations at the Loughran House located on the grounds of the Senate House Historic Site.

The front room of the Victorian Italianate-style home will be decorated in a military theme, and the volunteers will decorate the tree (the largest one in the house), with the pictures they receive. Volunteers will copy and mount the pictures as ornaments which will list the name of the service member, their military branch and dates of service. Continue reading

A History of the Albany County Hall of Records


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The following essay by Albany County Clerk Thomas Clingan is reprinted with permission from the Tivoli Times, the newsletter of the Albany County Hall of Records (ACHOR). ACHOR celebrated its 30th Anniversary in October.

Albany County can trace its records management program to a 1978 National Historical Publications and Records Commission (“NHRPC”) grant of $9235 to inventory Albany County Clerk records, accepted by the Albany County Legislature in Resolution 99 of 1978. This first modern inventory was completed and printed in 1979. The theft and quick recovery of County Clerk’s oldest Dutch record book in May 1980 increased public awareness of the need to safeguard these documents, and in January 1981, Resolution 10 of that year accepted a further $20,000 NHPRC grant to study the possibility of a joint city and county archives and records management system.

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Contribute To A History of NYC in 100 Objects


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A Checker taxicab, a conductor’s (OK, not just any conductor but Leonard Bernstein) baton, the blue-and-white Greek coffee cups and the elevator safety brake. A subway token and a mastodon tusk. Inspired by the British Museum’s ”A History of the World in 100 Objects,” The New York Times recruited historians and curators to identify objects that embody the narrative of New York City. Now they’re expanding that list into a book and need your help!

The museum’s ”History of the World” was limited to objects in its own collection. We have no limitations, except that when we asked readers for their suggestions, we probably should have defined “objects” more specifically. Readers suggested a number of people (former Mayor Edward I. Koch, among others) and some things like Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, Kennedy Airport, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and the Unisphere, which wouldn’t fit in a museum.

Readers recommended the subway token (substituted for a NYC MetroCard), Bella Abzug’s hat, and a hearty helping of food, from pizza slices (triangular and square); egg creams (made with Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup); pastrami sandwiches; Mello-Rolls and other ice cream treats; seltzer bottles; Ebinger’s blackout cake; the cream-cheese sandwiches at Chock Full o’Nuts; plantains; cheesecake from Junior’s and Lindy’s; Charlotte russes; a pickle barrel; and hot dogs from Nathan’s and from carts under the ubiquitous blue-and-yellow Sabrett umbrellas.

Only a few symbols summon the city more immediately than the ”I love NY” logo, designed by Milton Glaser in 1977 for a state campaign to spur tourism, but does that qualify as an object? Also, we are looking for quirky, other-than-obvious objects that don’t just evoke New York, but that also could be used to tell the story of the city: A lottery wheel from the Civil War draft, a crack vial from the 1980s, the 1-inch-by-3 inch Delaney card, the visual attendance record invented by a Bronx teacher that, the reader wrote, ”held the power of life and death over a student” and Con Edison’s orange-and-white chimneys placed over manholes to allow steam to escape without scalding passers-by or obscuring visibility.

Any suggestions would be very welcome. Send them to Sam Roberts at The New York Times (samrob@nytimes.com).

Albany Institute Launches New Lecture Series


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Beginning this month the Albany Institute of History & Art will launch a new monthly lecture series entitled Making It American. The series will take a broad look at what art and material culture can teach us about the development of American history, culture, the arts, politics, and our identity as a nation.

In this series, invited scholars will analyze American values and ideals to enhance our experience and understanding of our world. A painting or school of painters, or a spinning wheel or farm kitchen tools will serve as touchstones for the series. Continue reading

Ticonderoga’s 2013 Material Culture Weekend Set


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Fort Ticonderoga will host its Third Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” the weekend of January 26 and 27, 2013. This weekend event focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and is intended for collectors, re-enactors, and people with a general interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history. “Material Matters” takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga and is open by pre-registration only. Continue reading

Manumission Document Tells Story Emancipation in NY


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The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) has announce the gift of an original manumission document for its African American History collection. The word “manumission” means to emancipate or free from bondage.

Manumission documents like this one issued by a New York slaveholder are rare. In this instance, the signatory freeing a slave known only by the name of “Lewis,” is identified as Richard Hatfield, Jr. Hatfield was the son of a leading lawyer, Richard Hatfield, Sr. (1750 -1813) a delegate to the NY State Convention that ratified the constitution. It is recorded that he inherited land (and presumably slaves) that stretched “from the Scarsdale or “Indian Line of Marked Trees” to, or almost to, the then Road to Rye Neck, (now Old Mamaroneck Road, Gedney Way and Mamaroneck Avenue). His property would have passed to his son, Richard Hatfield, Jr. who was an attorney as well.

Instruments like this one were often recorded in the Libers of Conveyances in the Recorder’s Office of the City of New York, usually at the request of the freed slave as an added protection. Another signature on the paper that merits interest is that of Richard Riker (1773-1842) who served as NY Recorder, prior to and after John Jay’s eldest son, Peter Augustus Jay.

But unlike Jay and Jay’s fellow members of the NY Manumission Society who actively fought to end slave trafficking, Riker is rumored to have been complicit in the kidnapping of freed blacks for purposes of selling them back into slavery. This document helps vividly narrate a chapter in African American history when freedom was not only hard won but also uncertain to last; even elected officials could not be trusted to abide by legal writs.

The document was donated by Carol Ubosi nee Smith of the Purdy, Bell and Potter families who have resided in Westchester County since the 1700s. It was found in the 1980s by Ms. Ubosi’s mother, May Potter Smith, amongst several nineteenth century items in the attic of their family home in Harrison. Although this important story was carefully preserved in a family bible, it is still not known how “Lewis” was connected to the Purdy/Bell family of Harrison. A search for further information and context is ongoing.

Last fall, after contacting JHC president Suzanne Clary for research help about the historic African Cemetery in Rye where her ancestors are buried, Ubosi expressed her interest in making the gift to JHC where it could be made available to area schools and scholars. Ubosi grew up in Mamaroneck and New Rochelle and lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She attended Central State University in Ohio and has taught in White Plains and Silver Spring. She is presently working on a book about the genealogy of her family with Alesia McFadden, a historian of African American History. As an educator, Ubosi hopes this manumission document will shed some light on the rich history of African-Americans living in Westchester and inspire others to explore and share their own family heritage

The Jay Heritage Center is equally delighted that this primary source will be shared with the many middle school history classes who regularly come through its doors to learn about African American History in New York and Westchester. “When students ask us, ‘What does manumission mean?’ says Clary, “this remarkable document will tangibly show them one man’s transition from servitude to freedom almost 200 years ago. The mere fact of its existence demonstrates how precious this paper was to its owner and his descendants. For those families who will see it firsthand at our site it will prompt the necessary questions that are central to an ongoing discussion about the evolution of social justice in our country.” The Jay Heritage Center has been a member site of the African American Heritage Trail since 2004; John Jay and his family played active roles in abolishing slavery in New York.