Friday, July 31, 2009


By: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Projects Coordinator If you visit the More House this year, you may come across a volunteer sewing together the pieces of a bandbox. The bandbox volunteer group, spearheaded by lead volunteer Martha Duke, is an enthusiastic new group at the museum. They have learned the techniques and history of bandbox-making, which they demonstrate in the sitting room of the More House. I love this new group! Not only does it add to the activity in the More House, but I’m learning new things every week about bandboxes and how they’re made. It’s also fun to see even more colorful wallpaper than already covers the walls in the house (more on the More House wallpaper in a future post). Bandboxes originally were made in England and served to store men’s detachable neck bands (collars). By the nineteenth century, Americans had adapted bandboxes to store a wide variety of hats, accessories, and other trinkets; women also used them as luggage while traveling. If you are interested in volunteering on this project, please contact our Volunteer Administrator at The bandboxes are also available for sale at Todd’s General Store. Photos: Martha Duke sews together a bandbox lid in the More House sitting room, with several finished boxes in the background.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What's in this picture?

By: Erin Crissman, Curator Across the street at Fenimore Art Museum, is a great exhibition of Walker Evans' photography from the 1930s. Walker Evans: Carbon and Silver shows how much additional detail can be shown in these iconic American photographs by re-printing them with today's digital technology. I realised when I was looking at the work during the exhibition's opening a few week's ago that I wasn't looking at the photographs, but concentrating on what was in them. When I look at art, I think about how it documents everyday life from its time period. For The Farmers Museum's historic village buildings, I often look at paintings, drawings and lithographs from the 1840s for clues about how to place furniture, what window treatments to use and what wallpaper should be on the walls. So, at the Walker Evans exhibition, I was looking at how Evans' photographs documented how his subjects lived in the 1930s. Here are a few examples:
These two photographs show the same home's kitchen. The first one is taken from the outside, and the second one from the inside of the house. How can I tell? The same chair is in both photographs, though it is clear that the family either had more than one, or that Evans rearranged the kitchen for his photograph. Also, on the wall in the second photograph is the dasher and lid for a butter churn. In the top photograph, the churn is sitting on the cabinet's enamel counter. I wonder if this family had a cow?
This family's home is incredibly clean. The towel and bowl serve as a washstand to wash hands as they're entering the house. All of the surfaces are look clean and shiny and they have a broom, albeit well-worn, in the corner. Only the kerosene lamp's chimney needs cleaning.
Many of the tenant farmer families Evans photographed in the 1930s were living in much the same way that some families lived in the 1840s. They had no electricity or indoor plumbing and were still churning their own butter. Although I look at these photographs today and see hardship, I also see that this family was making the best out of what they had and taking excellent care of their few possessions.

Top: Farmer's Kitchen, Hale County, Alabama 1936

Bottom: Kitchen Corner, Tenant Farmhouse, Hale County, Alabama 1936

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rainy Days: Best Museum Visits Ever

By: Erin Crissman, Curator I've spent a lot of my life visiting and working at outdoor living history museums. It took me a little while to understand that rainy days are real treasures in the museum season. At first, it might seem like a terrible idea to trek to an outdoor museum in the rain. Most of them have unpaved roads, and since they're outdoor museums, you will probably be outside.
Not so fast! Venturing out in the rain may be one of your most rewarding museum visits. Here are a few reasons why visiting The Farmers' Museum (or working here!) on a rainy day is a privilege.
1) Most people don't want to visit in the rain. But, if YOU visit, you'll benefit from the slower pace and thin crowds.
2) Talking to interpretive staff can be even more fun. With fewer visitors, they're usually able to spend more time with you, sit down and chat, and even help you try out a few new things. 3) In the early fall, and sometimes on these rainy summer days, historic fireplaces are glowing with a toasty-warm fire. 4) Although technically outside, the buildings are very close together, so if you're willing to run between the raindrops you won't even get wet! Stay and play games in the country fair tent for as long as you like. Remember to wear rain boots and bring an umbrella and an extra jacket. I've acquired cute pink rain boots, and more recenty, some rainy-day shoes. If you have a family with small children, bring some extra clothes and hot chocolate for the ride home in case they're a little damp and chilly. Rainy days were, and still are, some of my favorite days at work. Hope you'll venture out to a living history museum on a rainy day, too!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Family Fun at The Farmers' Museum

By: Erin Crissman, Curator Except for a brief time in first grade when I dreamed of being a fashion designer, I have always wanted to work in a museum. Most years on my birthday, my parents would take me and a few friends to some kind of museum. My favorites were outdoor living history museums. I always had a great time. Consequently, I love seeing families at The Farmers' Museum, particularly those with teenagers. I also like perusing albums on Flickr and reading blog posts of family visits to TFM because they often report on what a great time they had. Here are a few recent ones: Four Great Boys visit The Farmers' Museum Another family's spontaneous weekend trip Have a photo of your great visit to TFM? You can post it on our Facebook Page or upload it to Twitter and mention us (@farmersmuseum) in your tweet. If I remember, I will dig up some photographs of myself on the museum visits of my youth. I am certain they will be embarrassing!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Baaaa! Live from the Sheep Tent

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Projects Coordinator I’m writing this post amid the bleating of sheep and the smell of sawdust. Today I’m helping in the sheep tent at The Farmers’ Museum’s 62nd Annual Junior Livestock Show – this is my second year helping with ribbons in this tent. Since I grew up in a suburban area and did not participate in 4-H, I love that this is a teaching show. The first part the day for each animal is the showmanship class, where the judges evaluate participants’ animal handling skills. The youth can then use this feedback to improve their handling during the rest of the show. Participants and spectators alike can also learn more about the animals as judges explain their decisions throughout the show, and I’m already feeling more informed about sheep after a day and a half. The sheep tent also hosts my favorite Junior Livestock Show event: the Sheep Olympics. It’s similar to the agility courses that dogs run, but with less cooperative and more noisy animals. The sheep and kids all do a great job and the event is a fun way to celebrate the animals and all the hard work that has gone into preparing and showing the animals. It’s been a great two days of livestock showing. Congratulations to all our exhibitors!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Junior Livestock Show

By: Erin Crissman, Curator Yesterday, I had my first Junior Livestock Show experience. This event is held annually at The Farmers' Museum's auxillary location at River Road in Cooperstown. This is the 63rd year that young people from Central New York have brought their animals (sheep, cows, pigs and goats) to be shown and judged. I don't have much personal experience with livestock. I was absolutely impressed by the expertise, patience, pride and care these kids brought to the show. They were busy working away at 8am getting their animals ready. A long list of prizes are awarded today for each of the livestock categories. Prize or not, this is a wonderful experience - one I wish I had growing up.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dr. Jackson's Office - Now Open!

By: Erin Crissman, Curator
On July 4th, Dr. Jackson’s office opened after an extensive restoration. A new exhibition inside the building completes the transformation. Although I have already been at The Farmers’ Museum for over a year, this was the first project I was able to complete from start to finish; all of my other projects so far had been underway when I arrived.
The original structure (the front room) is furnished like Dr. Elhanan Jackson may have used it inthe 1840s. Since most rural doctors were not wealthy and travelled to see their patients, this space is sparsely furnished.
This little office was quite challenging, mostly because the space is so small. We had to accommodate people, artifacts and information in two very tiny rooms - 11' x 14' and 11' x 11'. I’m surprised that the project stayed true to its original plan. Sometimes, especially in historic structures, a variety of problems prevent us from doing exactly what we’d like: plaster walls won’t let us hang things in certain places; some objects that we’d like to display won’t hold up to the environmental changes in buildings without temperature and humidity control.
Physicians like Dr. Jackson mixed thier own medicines and had at least a few medical texts for reference.
Most physician's offices were used for record keeping and mixing medicines and were usually furnished with only two tables and a chair. All of a typical rural physician's equipment is displayed here. Not much to work with!
The back room of the office, added in the 1870s, displays developments just beyond Dr. Jackson's time: more advanced surgery and anethstesia in the 1860s; stethescopes; Mary A. and Mary Imogene Bassett - mother and daugher female physicians in Cooperstown in the 1870s and 1880s - represent women in medicine.
One of the most successful aspects of this project was very simple – color choice. The little office looks much more welcoming now with its yellow walls and red floors. The Museum’s interpretive staff reports that it was full of visitors all weekend!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sampling History at the More House: Sampler #1, Complete!

by: Kajsa Sabatke, Interpretive Projects Coordinator
This afternoon I completed the last stitches on my cross-stitched sampler project, based on the More family sampler in our collection. I have to say that I’m pretty excited about my work so far; to read more about the project, check here, here, and here. After weeks of counting, stitching, ripping out mistakes, and starting again, I’m finally done! As I’ve stitched in the More House, many visitors have asked what will happen to this sampler. It will stay in the More House for visitors to see. In the entire scope of the project, though, I still have far to go. My next step will be to go back to the original sampler to check against my first try, note my mistakes, and fix anything major on this sampler. Then I will start matching thread colors and material so I can start on an even bigger task: reproducing, as much as possible, the original sampler on linen cloth (without the benefits of the grid-like aida cloth). But after this one, I’m feeling much more ready for the challenge!
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