Imponderabilia, as a blog, serves a dual purpose for me, as a blogger. It gives me the opportunity to share interesting information, images and texts that relate to my own specific interests (material culture, archaeology, public history, etc). But it also gives me the chance to share information relevant to my personal career trajectory as a young professional, navigating the small niche of public history and marketing. Related to that particular aspect of this blog, I am very excited to announce that later this month, I will be moving to Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks of upstate New York, to join the Marketing team at the beautiful Adirondack Museum! This is a momentous career move for me, so I thought it might be fun to do a post about the museum itself, and how the work I will be doing reflects my ideologies as a public historian and marketing professional (soon to be, museum marketer!)
To start off, here’s a snippet of ADK Museum history, pulled from their website:
“Since 1957, the Adirondack Museum has shared the history of the people who have lived, worked and played in the Adirondack Park. The history of the very place on which the museum sits mirrors the history of the Adirondacks: from lumber camp to summer hotel to museum, it embodies the transformation of the Adirondacks from mineral and lumber resource to resort to recreation getaway.
The museum’s story begins in 1867 when Connecticut farmer Miles Talcott Merwin acquired 11,230-acres in the Adirondacks, including most of Blue Mountain. Six years later, Merwin and his son, Miles Tyler Merwin, traveled here “in order to look over some prospects for lumbering.” After reaching Glens Falls by train, they hiked for five days through dense forest to reach Blue Mountain Lake.
In spring, 1874, Tyler Merwin “employed a crew of men to build a set of shanties, clear up some land, and plant some potatoes to help feed a crew of lumbermen the next winter.” Merwin and his men logged two tracts of land, one on Blue Mountain and another around nearby Tirrell Pond, three miles to the north.
In the last quarter of the 1800s, the Adirondacks became a popular vacation destination. Wealthy summer tourists came to spend several weeks or more each summer, escaping the heat and smog of urban life. Tyler Merwin put up overnight guests, first in crude rooms in the lumber camp, then in a log “annex.” In 1880, he built a large frame hotel with a broad veranda overlooking the lake. By 1907, Merwin’s Blue Mountain House hotel could accommodate as many as 100 guests.
True to his Puritan background, Merwin banned the use of alcohol and tobacco on hotel grounds, although he did offer amusements including “ping-pong, piano, Victrola, radio, and when occasion demands, square and regular dancing.”
The Blue Mountain House continued as a hotel into the twentieth century. On Saturday July 3, 1948, then owner William L. Wessels invited “a group of men and women interested in the history of the Adirondacks and the preservation of mementos of the past” to meet. Together, they formed The Adirondack Historical Association. Granted a charter by the New York State Legislature the following year, the group made plans to build a museum in Blue Mountain Lake. In 1954, the Adirondack Historical Association purchased the Blue Mountain House property from Wessels, and began construction on a new museum building.
The Adirondack Museum opened on August 4, 1957, after two years of construction and collecting. Director Robert Bruce Inverarity described the new museum’s mission as “ecological in nature, showing the history of man’s relation to the Adirondacks.” The first objects collected were from the Blue Mountain Lake area. The exhibits featured the Marion River Carry Railroad engine and passenger car, the steamboat Osprey, a stagecoach, several horse-drawn vehicles, a birch bark canoe and dioramas depicting various aspects of life in the Adirondacks.
Since then, the Adirondack Museum collection has expanded to include artifacts representing community life from all over the Adirondack region. The museum actively collects, preserves and exhibits objects that were made or used by Adirondackers. These objects are historical documents that tell how people live, work, and play on the Adirondack landscape. Most of these objects have been donated by Adirondackers who want to preserve and share their family and community history. There are now some 30,000 objects, more than 70,000 photographs, 9,511 books, and 800 pages of original manuscript materials housed and exhibited at the Adirondack Museum. The museum is still collecting and those numbers are growing.”
There is more to the historical narrative on this webpage – you can read the rest of it here.
My blog will be taking on a decidedly Adirondack flavor, as you may imagine. I am absolutely thrilled by the idea that I will get to spend the foreseeable future exploring Adirondack history (both within the museum, and without), and sharing my explorations on this blog. I plan on visiting any historic site that I can possibly access, and sharing images and historical context with my readers. I will also keep my blog up to date with the historical goings-on at the museum – I am particularly interested in the many historic structures that are located on the premise, and certainly have plans for some great blog posts regarding their preservation, upkeep and historic value.
As a historian, I have also taken great interest in 19th century leisure culture, particularly as it pertains to nature and natural healing. My thesis, Romanticism and Ruralism, in part focuses on the Trudeau Sanitarium in Saranac Lake, NY and its natural healing initiatives. You can expect many more posts regarding this area of Adirondack of history as well!
In any case, more to come in terms of Adirondack history-themed blog posts, and Adirondack Museum exploration. It is going to be a very exciting summer, and Imponderabilia is where you will be able to keep current with all my historical exploits!