Friday, October 8, 2010

Plowline: Images of Rural New York

By: Erin Richardson, Curator
Today, The Farmers' Museum launches a new collecting initiative. This Farmers' Museum project is possible through generous support of the Gipson Family.  Plowline: Images of Rural New York will acquire original photographic works that document changes in rural life, farm families and agricultural practice for the history of photography - from the 1840s through the present. The collection is not limited by photographic format - daguerreotypes, tintypes, 35mm slide shows, real photo postcards, home movies, and born-digital works can all be part of the collection. 

Dante Tranquille. Horses in a field near West Winfield, NY. May 11, 1955. Museum Purchase.

 Dante Tranquille. Potato Harvest, probably Herkimer County, NY. October 16, 1968. Museum Purchase.

Why are we starting to collect photography now?  That is a complicated question.  The Farmers' Museum has a few photographs already, but it has never been a focus of our collecting activities.  In case you haven't noticed, farm equipment has gotten progressively larger over the decades. When the museum was founded in 1942, the curators were collecting plows and harrows. Those pieces of equipment, while bulky, can be easily stored and moved around by one person.  Today, tractors and automated equipment are very, very large and can be very difficult to house and care for (as most farmers today already experience with their own equipment).  Although we will still be selectively collecting 20th and 21st century agricultural tools and equipment, this new photography collection will allow us to more thoroughly document New York State agriculture.
Unidentified Photographer (Dezemo Family). $200 cow. George Dezemo and Myrtle.  Name Daisy. Walton, Orange County, NY, ca 1945. Museum Purchase.

The best part is that as acquisitions are made, they will be posted to the Plowline website. You can search or browse through the photographs. We've already collected nearly 1000 images this year in preparation for the launch. More than 500 are already available for browsing.

Unidentified Photographer (Cornell University, Department of Dairy Industry). Barns Exterior: Well located, Fairfield Dy. Co. ca 1910. Gift of Eric Hallstead.

If you have photographs in your family's collection, or think there is a collection out there we should know about, please contact me via phone (607)547-1521 or email: I would love to hear from you. And, if you are heading to The Farmers' Museum for Tractor Fest, stop by my tent and learn more about the collection.

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