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Category Archives: museums

Me at the Museum

Sometimes people are our best resources.  See: yesterday I ended on a profound statement; today I begin on one.

Twice now I have been to Richfield springs Historic Association Museum and Exhibit Hall, and both times I have been greeted by friendly, knowledgeable individuals who made sure I enjoyed the visit.  I foolishly did not get the name of the gentleman who was there last Saturday, but he showed us and told us a lot.

I think I mentioned in Sunday’s post how the volunteer motioned me in to get warm when I was on Main Street looking for Cheryl and Penny and how we had a nice visit once inside.  I’d just like to mention a couple of specifics.

The Association recently acquired a collection of newspaper and magazine clippings from a library that is going digital. Our guide said, and I agreed, that it’s good to keep the paper, because computers can crash.  I pointed out that it was also good to have the computers, because paper turns yellow and eventually falls apart.  That’s one reason I find history so fascinating: eventually everything seems to disappear.

One artifact I especially liked was a very old pair of glasses, the kind with no temple pieces.  They were rimless with only a nose piece and a hole in the side for a ribbon.  The original case showed that the glasses came from the jewelry shop that used to be in the very building which houses the museum.  The jewelry story sign, which is in the shape of a clock, is also on display.

The museum is located at 134 West Main St., Richfield Springs, NY.  Phone number is 315-858-0027. They are open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from May to mid-October, or by appointment. No admission is charged, but donations are gratefully accepted.  You can visit their website at www.richfieldspringsmuseum.org.

 

Surrounded by History

The Herkimer County Historical Society held an Open House on Saturday in honor of Museum Day in New York State. I remember attending their open house last year (I believe I wrote a blog post about it). I was delighted at the chance to repeat the experience.

The museum is about a ten minute walk from my house, but my husband, Steven, was able to drop me off on North Main Street on his way back to work (he had an early lunch). When I walked in the front door a tour was in progress. I felt like wandering, so I sneaked upstairs.

I had seen the display of dollhouses before, but, goodness, that was a year ago. These things are often worth a second viewing. I also looked once again at the portraits on the wall, making special note of Margaret Tugor, a local educator of note. I would love to write a biography of Tugor, if only I had any idea how to research such a thing.

Back downstairs the tour had reached the Remington typewriter. I have a minor collection of typewriters myself, but nothing truly antique. I wandered over to the gift shop. I didn’t see any post cards I haven’t purchased previously, and I didn’t see anything good for a Father’s Day gift (for my father at least; I’m sure there were many things of interest to other fathers).

The third floor was open in honor of the day. This is where they house items not currently on display as well as archives. I walked along shelves of books and collections of papers. I felt surrounded by history. Some volunteers were around, but I did not have any questions.

I did chat up a volunteer and another patron about a bicycle on the second floor. It was one with the giant front wheel and tiny back wheel. A card said somebody local had ridden it all the way to the west coast. We marveled at the feat. Not only no chain and no gears on the bike. No highways. No Motel 6 or KOA Kampgrounds. What an adventure!

As always I enjoyed my visit to the museum. Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always enjoyed checking out local history. I continued my Museum Day wanderings across the street (kitty corner, actually) at the 1834 Jail. That will form the topic of tomorrow’s post (barring accident). Stay tuned!

More Museum Day Fun

I continued my historic adventures Saturday by crossing the street to the Herkimer County Historical Society, which was also offering an open house.

I’ve been through the building several times, but I’m always happy to go through again. Even amongst the displays that don’t change I find I’ve never seen everything. Saturday the third floor archives were open. I was delighted to check that out.

The third floor also houses artifacts not on display. I was particularly fascinated by the collection of old typewriters. I have a minor collection of old typewriters myself. I don’t display them, but I do occasionally haul one out and type on it for old times’ sake.

Looking at all the books and papers, I wished I knew how to set about doing historical research. It looked to me as if there are oceans of information to be had. Some years ago I conceived the ambition to write a biography on Margaret Tugor, a local figure of some note. I may have mentioned that in this blog. Well, someday I may do it. I may not know how to start, but I know where to start.

Back downstairs I got into a conversation with another lady. She asked me if I was involved in any more plays. I said not the current one but I was writing a murder mystery. I used to have a small business that put on interactive murder mysteries. I would not care to attempt to do it for profit again, but for Ilion Little Theatre or as a fundraiser for the Herkimer County Historical Society… that has possibilities. The lady I was talking to said there were some hams on the society board (“hams” was the word she used; she did not name names). I think it would be a very fun thing to do. Certainly blogworthy.

I walked around the museum looking at the displays. I admired their new one, about the War of 1812. I don’t know much about that war. I think a trip to my local library may be in order. The lady at that end of the building showed me another display, all about the different ethnic groups and where they settled in the area. To this day, you can see traces of the various heritages.

I always enjoyed history in school, because it was like a story and I like stories. I didn’t feel it necessarily had anything to do with me personally. Looking at displays at the county historical society, I can see that it does. The War of 1812 is no longer an academic event whose date is pretty easy to remember for the test. Immigration isn’t just about Ellis Island and a potato famine in Ireland.

I suppose I’m stating the obvious. I shall retreat from my attempts at being profound and just say that I think the Herkimer County Historical Society is cool. Check it out. For more information call 315-866-6413.

Historic Fun

Monday Steven and I celebrated a day off together with a visit to the Herkimer County Historical Society.

While we waited in the gift shop for one of the ladies to let us into the museum, we looked over a cabinet dedicated to Roxalana Druse, the subject of a talk we attended last week. It included such artifacts as a bonnet she wore and part of the rope used to hang her.

I think the museum itself is good for several blog posts. I didn’t even read all the little cards by the various displays. I noted with interest some information on Margaret Tugor. She was principal of the Southside School, which was later renamed after her. On our first visit to the museum, a few years ago, a portrait of Tugor caught my eye. I was fired with ambition to write a biography about her. I have not done so yet, because I really have very little idea of how to research a biography.

Upstairs is a lovely display of doll houses, the collection of Joyce Keller, a Herkimer native and lifelong resident. I picked up a brochure that had biographical information on Keller as well as notes on the doll houses and their contents. I didn’t read through it at the time but just strolled around enjoying the display. The details were wonderful and the craftsmanship impressive. The brochure points out specific furnishings such as a miniature copy of Dolls’ Houses in America signed by Flora Gill Jacobs, the author. I may return to look at the display again and make sure I don’t miss anything.

Back down in the gift ship, I picked up two brochures about Herkimer County (always looking for more Mohawk Valley adventures), then selected some postcards. I also found a notepad bearing a logo of Herkimer’s Historic Four Corners (my favorite!). I pointed out to Steven a DVD and a couple of books for him to keep in mind when my birthday rolls around again. (some women my age ignore birthdays, but I like to give my husband every opportunity to buy me presents).

We had a nice conversation with one of the ladies there. We talked about the recent program given by James Greiner about Roxalana Druse, the Last Woman Hanged. I mentioned my blog and how I had written about Homefries with the Historical Society (my, that was a long time ago). I greatly enjoyed our visit and hope to return soon. The society is located at the Historic Four Corners (of course), 400 N. Main St., Herkimer, NY 13350. For more information call 315-866-6413.

From Artsy to Elegant

Fountain Elms is a beautiful Victorian home located next to the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute (MWPAI). It is the ancestral home of the institute’s founders, and it is open to the public as a museum. You can get to Fountain Elms from MWPAI by way of a basement hallway, which is what Steven and I did last Saturday.

A lady was showing some other visitors around, telling them things about the rooms and the family that lived there. We did not take advantage of the guide this visit, but we have on previous visits. The people that work there are very knowledgeable and patient about answering questions.

The downstairs rooms are furnished and decorated as they would have been in the 1850s. You can only walk into them so far, which is a good thing, because the decorating style of the time was a bit crowded. I probably would have fit right in, because I tend to fill my rooms with a lot of stuff, too. Of course, my stuff is not elegant, but different times, different stuff.

Upstairs there are paintings, accessories and artifacts behind glass, and a beautiful vintage doll house. I think I sent a post card of the doll house to my sister, when she was at home recuperating from an operation.

I was quite interested in the paintings, which included portraits painted at various times. Some were identified, some not. What struck me was the different levels of realism. How can I put it? Some of the artists had the proportions wrong, or the figures looked stiff and unnatural. Others from similar years looked as if they might turn and speak to you. I really ought to take an art class, so I would know more about these things. Was the stiffness the style of the time or of that particular artist? I know portraits are usually commissioned works, bought and paid for the way we pay professional photographers for family portraits today (well, Steven and I have never done such a thing). And I remember reading in period fiction how people wanted to hire the fashionable painter of the time to do their portrait. But I don’t know why you wouldn’t hire somebody that made you look real. Or is that a silly thing to say, and readers who know about art history are rolling their eyes. Oh well, I’ve been rolled at before.

We enjoyed our visit to Fountain Elm. We went back through MWPAI and made our way to our car, to once again brave the Genesee Street detour, in search of further Mohawk Valley adventures.

Artsy Me

My real Mohawk Valley bloggable activity Saturday was to go to the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute (MWPAI), 310 Genesee St., Utica. The select few who read every post know I blogged about a restaurant and two craft stores I went to Saturday, but these were merely en route. I really wanted to blog about the art museum.

I remember in Basic Training one of my drill sergeants speaking disparagingly about “culture” as something his wife forced him to do. It was then that I realized, I like culture. I like museums, libraries, plays and symphony concerts. I think they are fun. Sometimes I imagine I should be more of a hoity toity person than I am. I should eat and drink with one pinky in the air. I should make scholarly observations such as, “I thought the adaptation was more literary than cinematic” (that was a line from a movie which I believe was intended to show the speaker as pretentious). Well I’m not and I don’t. I went to the museum because I like to look at the pictures.

We had a little adventure getting there, because there was a detour on Genesee Street. Luckily Steven was driving. We were soon parking and ready to view some art.

The regular exhibit at MWPAI is a good mix of styles. I would say more about this if I had ever taken an art class and knew how to properly apply the labels: modern, abstract, surrealism. This goes back to what I said earlier about scholarly observations. I got nothing.

When I was admiring a large Jackson Pollock, I remembered a conversation I overheard years ago with Roland Gibson and a college student. Roland Gibson was a prominent art collector who allowed many of his pieces to be displayed at SUNY Potsdam. By all accounts he was a shrewd judge of these things, and his collection was quite valuable. I was working in the dining hall when Mr. Gibson came in with a college student (I’m guessing) helping him carry a painting to be hung. The student was apparently not an art student, because he confessed to not understanding the attraction of abstract art.

“I mean, I could do that,” he said, repeating the cliche criticism that has been leveled against non-realistic paintings for many years.

Mr. Gibson told him that when we view a piece of art, we are viewing “the inspiration of the artist.”

“You say you could do that. I say, ‘But you didn’t.'”

I’m probably paraphrasing, but I’ve always remembered the sentiment. I didn’t think to splatter paint on canvas. Pollock thought of it. I don’t always like the results of the inspiration of the artist, and I’m sure there are artists who in fact are trying to get away with something. I like to think most of them have inspiration. If I don’t like the results, well it didn’t hurt me to look.

We made a quick stop at the gift shop before we left. I bought a few postcards. I think I’ll send one to a soldier I know in Afghanistan. He could use a little culture.

Guns Along the Mohawk

Friday, my sister Diane and her kids, Tom and Camille, came for the weekend. Tommy was registered to run the DARE 5K with me (stay tuned; that’ll be tomorrow’s post). We met after I got off work, at Remington Firearms Museum, Catherine St. off Rt 5S, Ilion, NY.

I have to confess, I was more into seeing my family and being happy about it being the weekend than in paying too much attention to the displays of firearms and ammo. Still, the place is interesting. I’ll have to go again on my own and maybe I can educate myself. For working in a gun factory, I know very little about them (and it really goes against the grain to use the word “gun;” in the army we were NOT allowed to call our M-16s guns).

Tommy is 13; Camille is 6. Tommy told me in a quiet tone of voice, “Cammie stole something. Come here, I’ll show you.”

He took me to a display of hand guns. One was missing. Camille, of course, insisted she was innocent. And the gun has not turned up at my house, amongst Camille’s Polly Pockets for example, so maybe she didn’t steal it after all.

We also checked out the museum shop. Steven bought a shot glass for his collection (he just collects them; he doesn’t do shots of booze in them). I checked out the hooded sweatshirts, but did not purchase one that day. We asked about post cards, and the girl working there told us they mean to get them but are trying to find a photographer that will do a good job. I have to appreciate that. I said I’d come back. I think the soldiers I send post cards to would like to get postcards of Remington Arms.

For more information about the museum, including hours, call 315-895-3200 or 800-243-9700. You can also visit the website, http://www.remington.com.