Every archaeological excavation breaks new ground. Even sites like Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England – one of the most extensively studied archaeological sites in the world – continually yield fresh discoveries. The 20th-century excavators of Stonehenge, William Hawley and Richard Atkinson, recognized the value of earth that had not been disturbed by archaeologists. As a result, they purposefully excavated only half of the stone circle and the surrounding earthworks. The other half they left untouched, and it is mostly untouched to this day, for the sake of preserving the privilege of “breaking new ground” for future archaeologists.
It is worth noting that archaeologists do not always break new ground in the literal sense. Even sites that have been completely excavated or destroyed can yield new information through new interpretations or new scientific testing of the evidence. However, as Hawley and Atkinson knew, the experience of excavating untouched ground is incredibly powerful. Even with extensive documentation, it can never be replicated. That is why archaeologists must be careful, focused, and above all, conservative in their approach to a site. Continue reading
The New-York Historical Society has acquired a first edition of Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York.
The newly acquired volume is heavily annotated by the author with pages scrawled with moral indignation towards slumlords, asides about tenement residents, and copyedits. Continue reading
Historic Cherry Hill has been awarded funding from the Pine Tree Foundation of New York for the conservation, rehousing, and select digitization of the museum’s collection of Van Rensselaer family receipt books and related clippings.
In all, there are 13 receipt books and numerous clippings and recipe fragments (in both manuscript and printed form) dating from the mid-eighteenth century through the early 20th century. The receipt books belonged to members of the Cherry Hill household. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga’s “Fort Fever” series begins on Sunday, January 12, at 2 pm with “Amazing Things! Highlights from Fort Ticonderoga’s Collections.” Participants will spend an afternoon with Curator of Collections Chris Fox examining some of the rare and important manuscripts, books, and objects in the Fort’s extensive collections.
Highlights include the chance to get a close look at the autographs of many of the famous people who are connected with the Fort’s history, objects associated with important people from the French & Indian War and American Revolution, and rare weapons from America’s colonial period. Continue reading
Gravestones represent some of the most valuable evidence available to archaeologists currently working on the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Church site in Mount Kisco, New York. Once occupied by two Episcopal churches – St. George’s (1761–1819) and St. Mark’s (1850–1916) – the site is also the final resting place of over 400 people, all buried between the 1760s and 1940. The area where the churches once stood was excavated this fall. The artifacts and information they uncovered is now undergoing analysis, and the excavation is planned to resume in the spring.
As co-directors of the excavation, Laurie Kimsal and I have discovered just how essential gravestones are to our understanding of the site. To begin with, gravestones offer clues to the location and orientation of the 18th-century St. George’s Church. Secondly, the gravestones provide insights into the values and beliefs of the people who erected them, as well as the social, religious, and economic worlds of the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue reading
Fort Ticonderoga will present its Fourth Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” Seminar the weekend of January 25 & 26, 2014. The weekend event focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and is intended for people with an 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
Winterthur, a public museum, library, and garden in Wilmington, Delaware, supporting the advanced study of American art, culture, and history, has announced its Research Fellowship Program for 2014–15.
Winterthur offers an extensive program of short- and long-term fellowships open to academic, independent, and museum scholars, including advanced graduate students, to support research in material culture, architecture, decorative arts, design, consumer culture, garden and landscape studies, Shaker studies, travel and tourism, the Atlantic World, childhood, literary culture, and many other areas of social and cultural history. Fellowships include 4–9 month NEH fellowships, 1–2 semester dissertation fellowships, and 1–2 month short-term fellowships. Continue reading
In the town of Mount Kisco in Westchester County, there is a small graveyard known as the St. George’s/St. Mark’s Cemetery, after the two successive Episcopal churches that once stood there. Established in the 1760s, the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the American Revolution. In the late 18th century, the small wooden St. George’s Church was one of the few man-made structures in a sparsely populated area that was transformed into a hostile wilderness with the onset of war.
Accordingly, the church was used by American, British, and French armies as a landmark in their journeys through Westchester County. General Washington’s troops retreated to the church to tend to the wounded and bury the slain after the Battle of White Plains in 1776; Colonel Tarleton brought his army to the church on the eve of the Burning of Bedford in 1779; and in the summer of 1781 the Comte de Rochambeau’s army camped near the church prior to the meeting with Washington that would ultimately bring their combined forces to victory at Yorktown. Continue reading
The New York State Museum has opened a new exhibit featuring a selection of important New York State decorative and fine arts artifacts that were recently donated to the Museum by Peter Wunsch, President of the Wunsch Americana Foundation.
The exhibit, Building a Collection: E. Martin Wunsch and His Passion for Collecting New York State Decorative Arts, will be on display through March 5, 2014. The Museum’s Wunsch Collection consists of furniture, paintings, silver, ceramics and folk art crafted primarily between 1700 and 1900. The objects have labels indicating they were made by New York craftsmen or have a documented New York history. The Wunsch Collection illustrates changing stylistic trends in decorative arts and provides insight into how New Yorkers once lived. Continue reading
The historic Nellis Tavern museum on State Highway 5 east of St. Johnsville in Montgomery County will present “A Handsome Assortment: Chairs of the Turnpike Tavern Era,” an exhibit scheduled for September 21-22, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The “turnpike era” in upstate New York corresponded roughly with the first half of the nineteenth century. The exhibit will feature examples of the types of seating pieces which would have been found in common use in establishments like Nellis Tavern during its heyday between 1800 and 1840, when it faced the Mohawk Turnpike (present State Highway 5). Today, objects like these are regarded as distinctive examples of early American artisanship. They are often examples of early American mass production, as well. Continue reading
Do you have hidden treasure in your attic? Do you have a family heirloom that you are unsure of the value? The Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society’s annual Heritage Day will be held on Saturday July 13th at The History Museum, 242 Station Street, in Lake Placid. As part of that event former Adirondack Museum curator and local expert Ted Comstock will be available from 11:00-1:00 to provide an appraisal of antiques and collectibles and perhaps “fill in the blanks” for those unsure of the age and origin of their objects.
Cost for the appraisals will be $5 per item, with three items for $12. Ted Comstock donates his time and expertise for this event, so 100% of the proceeds benefit operations at The History Museum. The last time this was done over 50 objects were appraised, ranging from a children’s miniature tea set to a late 19th century solo canoe. Items that can be appraised include furniture, china, glass and other home décor; camp items such as packbaskets, fishing tackle and snowshoes; photographs, books, prints and paintings. Please, no stamps, coins, or jewelry. Continue reading
The 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,” 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
This summer, the New-York Historical Society will be displaying all fifty objects from Harold Holzer’s new book, The Civil War in 50 Objects. Though the book looks at the Civil War from many angles, quite a few of the objects originate from New York City. We spoke with the historian about the Civil War’s impact on the city, and the city’s attempt to secede from the Union! Continue reading
The 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
In 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.
An 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
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
The 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
Monopoly has long held the title of America’s most capitalist board game—a mad scramble to accumulate as much money and property as possible before someone accuses the banker of cheating and storms off (or was that just in our family?). Still, perhaps it’s time to bring another commerce-centric board game into the mix. What about The Game of Playing Department Store?