ALBANY, NY.- The New York State Museum
celebrates 175 years of adding to the scientific and historical knowledge of New York State with a new exhibition which showcases the Museums invaluable collections, highlights the people who built them and the research that has resulted.
On display in Exhibition Hall until April 30, 2012, From the Collections features many of the Museums important collections in anthropology, history and natural science. It illuminates the history of the oldest and largest state museum in the nation. Included are highlights of the more than 15 million scientific and historic artifacts and specimens that make up the Museums collections, including perennial favorites, priceless treasures and new acquisitions.
The Museum and its collections officially began on April 15, 1836 when Governor William Marcy appointed the staff of the states first official Geological and Natural History Survey to conduct a grand and comprehensive collection of the natural productions of the State of New York to exhibit under one roof its animal, mineral and vegetable wealth.
The mineral collection one of the Museums earliest contain 35,000 specimens and date back to 1837 when Governor Marcy appointed Lewis Beck as mineralogist of the Geological Survey. Many of the minerals he collected during his trips across New York were incorporated into the State Cabinet of Natural History, the precursor of the State Museum. There are 30 minerals on display, some which have never been exhibited before. Some come from Becks collection and others were added this past year.
Specimens also are on display from the Herbarium collection, which documents the flora of the state. In 1836 John Torrey was employed to carry out botanical studies with the objective of acquiring every plant species known to occur in the state. The collection now consists of 200,000 vascular plant specimens, 50,000 bryophytes, 90,000 fungi, 12,000 lichens and countless others.
Also in the natural science section are colorful, very detailed scientific illustrations and paintings, as well as the skulls of a mastodon, whale and coyotes, as well as images of the collection and preservation process. Also on display is the baleen of a whale, which is the filter-feed system inside mouths of baleen whales. The exhibition also provides information on current research based on these collections.
The Museums history collection, with five million artifacts, dates back to 1901 when the New York State Agricultural Society donated a collection it had amassed to advance the field of agriculture. Large equipment, circa 1845-1865, are on display.
The State Museum has one of the most comprehensive collections of Shaker materials. The exhibition includes photos of the community and many examples of Shaker-made items including furniture, clothing, boxes, and molds and forms for their commercially sold products.
As visitors enter the exhibition they will see the Weebermobile, a car invented and built around 1903 by Christian F. Weeber Jr., an Albany native who began building experimental automobiles in the 1890s, just a few years after the automobile was invented.
Representing 200 years of decorative arts is the E. Eric Martin Wunsch collection, dating from 1700 to 1900. Furniture, jewelry and other items are on display. Visitors will also see stoneware from the Adam Weitsman collection and furniture, jewelry and other objects from the J. Tompkins Family collection. From the vaudeville collection are photos, drums and other items once used by vaudeville performer Iva Erway Garcinetti, (stage name Marjorie Miller).
The exhibitions anthropology section includes historic Native American artifacts and images from the Museums extensive ethnology collections, including one amassed between 1849-1850 by Lewis Henry Morgan, world renowned as the father of American ethnology.
Other objects are from the collection of Arthur C. Parker, the first American Indian Museum professional and New York States first state archaeologist. He pioneered the use of exhibits for cultural education. His Iroquois Village Life dioramas, on display from 1918 to 1976 in the old Museum location in the State Education Building, set a new professional standard.
Archaeology collections acquired more recently by the State Museum include the Mohawk Valley collection and the South Street Seaport Museum collection, transferred from the South Street Seaport Museum in lower Manhattan.
Also on display are many artifacts, including some that are prehistoric, collected through the Cultural Resource Survey Program, which completes legally required archaeological and architectural assessments for state and federal agencies. Collections are used in public outreach and educational programming at the Museum, in schools and in local communities.