Historical Collections

  Collections
 


ball imageIntroduction
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Agriculture
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Architecture
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Art
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Communication
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Decorative Arts
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Firefighting
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The Herschell-Spillman Carousel
ball imageManufacture
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Measurement
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Popular Entertainment
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Prints
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Shaker Collection
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Toys, Games & Dolls
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Transportation
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Weitsman Stoneware Collection
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Women's History In the Collections of the New York State Museum
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Wunsch Americana Foundation


 


Introduction

Coverlet Coverlet. Blue and white in stylized snowflake pattern with geometric and floral motifs in the center field, this coverlet is believed to have been made in 1836 by weaver John Conger, working in the town of Scipio, Cayuga County. The name woven in the corners indicates it was made for the Tillotsons, a prominent family in Cayuga and adjacent Tompkins counties.

The Historical Survey administers over 350,000 objects, including several distinguished collections of national or regional stature: Shaker domestic and industrial materials; documented New York furniture; agricultural implements; E. L. Henry paintings and graphics; circus and theater memorabilia; fire-fighting apparatus; the Gurley\Smart collection of surveying instruments; and prints and photographs. The Survey also holds significant collections of New York stoneware; Oneida silverware; advertising, packaging, and retailing materials; military miniatures; women's clothing; horse-drawn vehicles; industrial machinery; and quilts and coverlets.

The Survey plays a prominent role in the New York State Museum's program of permanent and temporary exhibitions. Over 75% of the permanent exhibitions now on view deal with historic themes and draw on the History collections and History staff expertise. Recent and current temporary exhibitions include subjects as diverse as circus posters, keyboard instruments, women factory workers in WWII, flower imagery, the Adirondack Park, window forms, mirrors, surveying instruments, popular entertainment, and bird’s eye views of New York.

Annually the staff helps create "From the Collections", a series of exhibits, which have all relied heavily on objects from the History collection, and has initiated a search for relevant objects to support the African American Exhibit proposed for Metropolis Hall. A significant number of the Museum's lobby exhibits also depend on large-scale objects from the History collection, such as horse-drawn wagons, automobiles, ice boats, kitchen ranges, and agricultural machinery.

In order to provide maximum public access to objects in its collections, the Survey participates in an extensive and aggressive program of selective loans to other not-for-profit, educational institutions across New York state and beyond.

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Agriculture

Mowing Machine Mowing Machine. The Museum's collections include three Walter Wood mowing machines, including one similar to this model in the 1900 catalogue. The Museum's earliest, wood frame machine dates from the 1850's. The Walter A. Wood Company built agricultural implements at Hoosick Falls for more than a half century.

In the nineteenth century, the New York State Agricultural Society maintained a museum in Albany. In addition to examples of the most modern tools available to New York farmers of the day, the Society displayed historical implements and exotic, primitive devices from around the world. When the Society gave up its museum in 1900, the collection came to the State Museum to form the core of the present agricultural holdings.

While eighteenth century British colonial and nineteenth century Asian Indian plows are interesting in themselves, the Society's mid-nineteenth century American plows and other farm equipment comprise its most valuable legacy, surviving as unique in relics of one of the most vital periods in New York State agriculture. Many of the Society's objects were acquired for display directly from their inventors or manufacturers in the 1850's and 1860's. A few items, such as plows, were used briefly in contests staged by the Society. But much of the material - feed mills, fodder cutters, weeders, thresher models and sheep feeders - remains as manufactured (given the inevitable deleterious effects of time).

Stone Lifter Stone Lifter. A wealthy farmer near Alder Creek used this device in the 1910's and 1920's to remove large stones from his fields. After the stone was secured with the iron hooks, the ratchet was used to lift the rock clear of the earth. A team of horses pulled the lifter and stone to a disposal area. Gift of Richard S. Smith.

Another distinct piece of the current State Museum agricultural collections are artifacts from the Shaker communities in New York. The Shakers, from their founding to their demise as viable communes, relied upon an agricultural economic orientation. In the 1920's and 1930's, as the communities dissolved, the State Museum acquired many relics of the Shaker's industries. Much of the material in the State Museum can be ascribed to processing activities, such as preparation of dried corn, seeds and herbs for market, rather than the growing of such corn, seeds and herbs.

Twentieth century agricultural tools and implements from many sources also belong to the State Museum's agriculture collection. Included are such items as tractors, silo fillers, milking machines and apple sorting equipment, all of which are associated with recent or contemporary important New York agricultural activities.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation once maintained a tree nursery museum at its facility in Saratoga Springs. Much of the material from the museum, principally the artifacts of seedling care, have been transferred to the State Museum.

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Architecture

Springside Cottage Springside Cottage, Poughkeepsie. Built for Matthew Vassar c1850. Design attributed to A. J. Downing (1815-1852). The Gothic Revival facade and trim components were salvaged in 1976.

The Architecture Collection at the New York State Museum encompasses almost three centuries of the state's built environment. Artifacts span the colonial period well into the 20th century and include walls and window sash, facades and frieze boards, and surfaces both painted and planed. Sample the collection on the Museum's Architecture Collection webpage.

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