A Remarkable Past: Objects of Outlandish Purpose and Astonishing Configuration

A Remarkable Past: Objects of Outlandish Purpose and Astonishing Configuration
October 4, 2008 – March 29, 2009

Adirondack Museum – Albany County Historical Association / Ten Broeck Mansion – Albany Institute of History & Art – Arkell Museum at Canajoharie Bennington Museum – Berkshire Museum – Chapman Historical Museum – National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation – Columbia County Historical Society – Hancock Shaker Village – Historic Cherry Hill – Hyde Collection Art Museum – National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame – New York State Museum – Old Fort Johnson – Pember Library & Museum – Rensselaer County Historical Society – Saratoga County Historical Society at the Brookside Museum – Saratoga Springs History Museum – Schenectady County Historical Society – Schenectady Museum – Shaker Museum and Library – Slate Valley Museum – The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College – The Clark

History is a web of collective memories, and for or every memento there is an unfolding narrative composed of many voices and many lives. Museums gather the furnishings of our activities and ideas – the evidence of our brilliance and boredom, our aspirations and failings. Museums tell us who and where we’ve been, and lead us into pockets of our culture that make us smile, wince and wonder.

This region is home to dozens of museums whose preservation and interpretation of the past is vital to our understanding of the world in which we live. In celebration of the Art & Culture Program’s own historic achievement – a decade of presenting public art – we have amassed a group of extraordinary artifacts from twenty-five area museums.

These objects are some of the quirkier items in each museum’s collection, and they attest to the eccentricities and creative peculiarities of human nature. Through them we learn about our ancient compulsion for new technologies and inventive genius. We apprehend the vulnerabilities of youth and old age, and how we pass the time in between – with leisure, love, adventure and hard work. Our stories unfold beyond the borders of our lives through the things we leave behind, whether artistic monuments or the trappings of daily routine. As individuals, the artifacts on view are curiosities that may confound or delight. Together they reveal a truly remarkable past.

Photos by Arthur Evans