Tag Archives: Material Culture

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.

New-York Historical’s World War Two in NYC Exhibit Opens


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The most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history will be the subject of WWII & NYC, a major new exhibition now on view at the New-York Historical Society through May 27, 2013. Restoring to memory New York’s crucial and multifaceted role in winning the war, the exhibition commemorates the 900,000 New Yorkers who served in the military and also explores the ways in which those who remained on the home front contributed to the national war effort. Continue reading

Art and Preservation at the Park Avenue Armory


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Armory Armoire. Carol Hepper

Architectural white elephants are a specialty of large urban areas, and armories form a particular subset of these: rife with possible new uses, dauntingly expensive to reclaim. In recent years New York City’s Park Avenue Armory Conservancy has refurbished its 1881 building and turned it into an exciting new space.

Its theatre programs have featured amazing performances with audiences moving on rails for Die Soldaten, or viewing the vast Peter Greenaway multimedia interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper. Dance companies, concerts and artistic programs are flourishing and a partnership with the Williamsburg, Brooklyn Art and Design High School gives high school students access to a historic preservation program. Continue reading

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

NYS Museum Opens Civil War Exhibit


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The exhibit “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War” has opened at the New York State Museum, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The pivotal role New York State played in the war is the focus of the 7,000-square-foot exhibition. As the wealthiest and most populous state, the Empire State led all others in supplying men, money, and materiel to the causes of unity and freedom. New York’s experience provides significant insight into the reasons why the war was fought and the meaning that the Civil War holds today. An Irrepressible Conflict will be open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. Continue reading

Kathleen Hulser: History in 100 Objects


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1853 Singer Sewing Machine

Material culture stormed the British airwaves several seasons back when the BBC broadcast “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” Accompanied by a popular website which actually allows listeners to see images of the objects selected from the world class collections of the British Museum, the series fed an untapped appetite for history in small bites. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum observed “Telling history through things is what museums are for.” Continue reading

Fenimore Lunch Lecture Series Spotlights New Exhibits


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Food for Thought, the popular lunch-and-lecture series at the Fenimore Art Museum, offers an in-depth understanding of the museum’s new exhibitions, including Tasha Tudor, G.C. Myers, and New York in the Civil War.

All Food for Thought programs are held on Wednesday from 12:30-2:30 pm at the Fenimore Art Museum. The museum offers two discounts: NYSHA members receive $5 off. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once, receive $2 off.
September 12: In Plain Sight: Hidden Gems of Native American Open Storage

Join Eva Fognell, Thaw Collection Curator, as she offers a behind-the-scenes look at the museum’s Study Center, which houses open storage of the Thaw Collection of American Indian Art. Appreciate the extraordinary range of art produced by North America’s first artists, including ritual objects, ceremonial clothing, pottery, and basketry.

September 19: Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed

Learn about America’s most prominent folk artist as Paul D’Ambrosio, President and CEO, explores the William Matthew Prior exhibition (on display through December 31).

October 10: On the Home Front: New York in the Civil War

Join John Hart, Assistant Curator of Collections, as he shares Civil War artifacts from the On the Home Front exhibition. Objects tell us so much about the past and the history of those who made and used them. Learn about New York State and its place in the American Civil War through lively discussion.

October 17: Tasha Tudor Around the Year

Come for a heart-warming discussion and tour of Tasha Tudor Around the Year, an exhibition from the Norman Rockwell Museum. This exhibition illuminates beloved author and illustrator Tasha Tudor and stirs the imagination through the artist’s iconic art and greeting cards. Co-curator Jeanette Chandler Knazek reflects on the changing seasons and special celebrations as depicted by Tudor.

October 24: Oral Histories of New York’s Farm Women

Professor William Walker of the Cooperstown Graduate Program plays excerpts from oralhistory interviews with women who have lived and worked on farms in central New York State. Using recordings available on the website CGP Community Stories, Dr. Walker leads a discussion of the varied experiences of women in the agricultural heartland of the state.

November 7: Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of G.C. Myers

Guest curator Gary C. Myers joins us in a discussion and tour of his contemporary exhibition, InternalLandscapes. Learn first-hand from the artist in this amazing exhibition of paintings that provide moments of stillness and encourage reflection and a renewed sense of purpose.

November 14: Flags, Uniforms, and Insignia: New York State Material Culture of the Civil War
Ted Shuart, printing supervisor at The Farmers’ Museum and re-enactor with the 125th New York State Volunteer Infantry, discusses flags, uniforms and insignia of New York troops during the Civil War. Learn about New York State’s wartime history while looking at objects from the period and understand what they tell us about one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

Pricing Information: Lunch and lecture fee – $20 members/$25 non-members. Register for three or more Food for Thought programs at once and receive a discounted price of $18 members/$23 non-members per program. Call (607) 547-1461 with questions regarding pricing or the cancellation policy.

25th Rustic Furniture Fair at Adirondack Museum


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The Adirondack Museum will host its 25th Annual Rustic Furniture Fair on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9 in Blue Mountain Lake. Renowned artisans from throughout the United States will showcase and sell their one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture, furnishings, and artwork.

The show will be open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Visitors interested in an early buying opportunity can visit on Saturday, September 8 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tickets will be available at the door, and are available now online.

The Adirondack Museum’s Rustic Furniture Fair is recognized as the premier event of its kind in the country. This gathering of talented artisans includes both traditional and contemporary styles of furniture design, handcrafted from natural materials. A list of the sixty participating artisans can be found on the museum’s website. Demonstrations of furniture making and painting will take place throughout the weekend. Exhibitors will answer questions about their work, or discuss custom made pieces.

In celebration of the 25th or Silver Anniversary of the Rustic Fair, more than twenty-five artisans have elected to design and create a unique commemorative piece for this year’s show. Each piece will bear a tribute plaque. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the commemorative pieces will benefit the museum.

In addition, there will be a very special silent auction happening during the Fair featuring the works of Barney Bellinger, Randy Holden, Larry Post, Russ DeFonce, Jonathan Swartwout, Bill Perkins, Rick Pratt and Bob Jones. Winners will be announced Sunday, September 9 at 3 p.m. Proceeds will benefit the Adirondack Museum.

Music throughout the weekend will be provided by Intermountain Trio. They will be releasing their second album “Can’t Find the Words” at the Rustic Fair this year. Intermountain Trio will be playing starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 8, and at 10 a.m. on September 9.

Americana Symposium: Civil War Era Material Culture


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On September 29, the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, New York, will host a second annual Americana Symposium. This year the theme is “Civil War Era Material Culture”; the event will be held at the Fenimore Art Museum from 9am until 5pm.

The symposium brings together leading scholars and experts on American history, art, and culture. After morning speaker sessions and an optional buffet lunch at noon, the 77th New York Regimental Balladeers perform in a special presentation, “Hard Times Come Again No More: America’s Heart Songs”. The balladeers preserve the songs, tunes, history, and spirit of the Antebellum and Civil War period using original musical arrangements and lyrics. 

This year’s presentations include:

  • “Seeing the Civil War: Artists, Photographers, Cartoonists, and Pictorial News and Views,” Joshua Brown, American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning

  • “Photographic Techniques During the American Civil War,” Mark Osterman, George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film

  • “Food in the Civil War,” Andrew F. Smith, food and culinary historian

  • “Emblems of Devotion: New York State’s Civil War Battle Flags, 1861-1862,” Christopher Morton, New York State Military Museum

Symposium attendees also have the opportunity to explore the Fenimore Art Museum and The Farmers’ Museum. Cooking demonstrations take place at The Farmers’ Museum, and a reproduction regimental silk flag will be painted at the Fenimore Art Museum. The symposium coincides with the Fenimore Art Museum’s exhibition, On the Home Front: New York in the Civil War, which runs from September 8 through December 31, 2012. The exhibition features Civil War–era artifacts, artwork, photographs and clothing.

The public is invited to explore the exciting world of Americana. Registration is limited and is $65 for NYSHA members and Archive Partnership Trust members, $75 non-members. For a complete schedule or to register online, visit FenimoreArtMuseum.org or call (607) 547-1453.

Silver Stories at the New-York Historical Society


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The pharaohs commissioned their pyramids, the wealthy and powerful today emblazon their names on buildings, philanthropies and great estates. But in earlier times in America, a convenient way to stamp your ambitions and achievements in the permanent record was to call on the silversmith.

The silver collection at the New-York Historical Society has taste, ornament, style, luxury, sparkle – and permanence. But it also has some quirky and memorable tales associated with its dazzling objects. The exhibition Stories in Sterling showcases some outstanding pieces, with richly detailed annotations in the accompanying catalog by curators Margaret K. Hofer and Debra Schmidt Bach. Continue reading