ELIZABETHTOWN — Doors to the Adirondack History Museum opened Memorial Day weekend with additions and new exhibits that promise to intrigue, inform and delight.
Lobby and ground floor rooms and halls welcome area residents and guests to explore the history of fishing in the Adirondacks with Gone Fishin’, a look at how lakes, ponds, and rivers sustained and challenged fishermen going back to the earliest inhabitants of these lands. Some of the Essex County Historical Society’s most rare fishing rods, lures and reels are on display.
The Rosenberg Gallery art show, A Woman’s View~Recognizing Artists in the Adirondacks, features numerous works of Adirondack women artists, including an internationally known multimedia and fiber artists, and three painters who found inspiration in such varied places as Antarctica, Labrador, and Mexico as well as the Adirondack Mountains.
Exhibited in the gallery collection are works from Shirin Neshat, Cynthia Schira, Elena Borstein, Laura Von Rosk, and Linda Fisher. The Museum will host a celebration with the artists and curator, Elena Borstein, on August 6.
Permanent exhibits, such as Hiking in the High Peaks and Adirondack Suffragists, have been expanded with important additions from the Essex County Historical Society collection. The hearty and well-worn pack basket owned and carried by famed Adirondack Guide Jim Goodwin, of Keene, has been placed in the High Peaks room, along with additions to a growing collection of Adirondack 46er canisters that once marked a hiker’s ascent of each mountain over 4,000 feet.
COLLECTIONS: PRESERVE AND DIGITIZE
Museum staff and ECHS trustees are thrilled to reopen their doors this summer and share an immense sense of accomplishment.
Despite a shortened 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, museum staff and Executive Director Aurora McCaffrey kept busy remodeling various rooms and storage areas. Work progressed in cataloguing hundreds of historic items, as well as cleaning, organizing, and making improvements to better protect the collections.
The Adirondack History Museum was established inside the former Elizabethtown High School on Court Street nearly 70 years ago. And acquisitions grew with the generosity of local donors. It wasn’t until much later that the museum added a digital cataloging system to log items and their provenance into a permanent computer record. Much of that work was completed in the past 12 months.
Throughout the process, new shelving was built to better contain and preserve items. The large agricultural and farming equipment collection was cleaned and organized. New environmental monitoring systems and protocols were placed in museum storage spaces to ensure an ideal space for preservation of artifacts, archives and textiles. Protection measures also included installation of UV and visible light window treatments to prevent irreversible damage.
“We were able to document nearly the entire photographic print collection in the museum database, moving toward a goal to increase online presence and open access to photographic representation of Essex County’s history,” McCaffrey said
The museum purchased new equipment to digitize all types of images: print, negatives, film, slides, and glass lantern slides. And in this process, several well-known exhibits and educational programs were moved online for use by area schools or historical interest groups.
“We created a digital exhibit, Remarkable Women of the Adirondacks, as well as digitized a series of educational programs. These are both available on our website, https://ahmexhibits.omeka.net/exhibits,” McCaffrey said.
“ECHS was very fortunate to have Louise McGoldrick come on as our collections manager for the past 18 months. She made incredible progress working with our collections.”
For McGoldrick, the hard work was a silver lining to the past year’s pandemic ups-and-downs.
“With the museum closed to the public, we were been able to transform the downtime into an opportunity to spearhead a comprehensive audit of the building’s storage spaces,” the collections manager said.
“After assessing the needs and required building improvements, we were able to repair decade’s old water damage and install archive quality shelving and housing units. These upgrades are crucial for the care and preservation of Essex County’s history and will significantly increase the safety of the artifacts and archives for future generations.”
As 2021 sees covid-19 infection slow, the Adirondack History Museum is returning with its lecture and film series this summer.
An exciting walkable, outdoor sculpture will begin taking shape on the museum grounds in June.
“Although we unfortunately had an abbreviated 2020 season, staff and volunteers worked continuously on collections work, exhibit development, and alternative avenues for reaching our audience,” McCaffrey said. “Our goal is to increase accessibility and knowledge of ECHS collections and resources.”