Cayuga Museum Returns Iroquois Sacred Objects

The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, New York, has announced the return of 21 objects of spiritual significance to the custody of the Onondaga Nation. Nineteen masks and two wampum articles associated with burials were transferred from the Museum collection to the Onondaga Nation.

The 1990 Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) mandates that federally funded museums return Native American “cultural items” to the lineal descendants or culturally-affiliated groups of the people who created them. The cultural objects covered include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony. Read more

Thomas Mott Osborne Film Premiere Theater Mack

Who is Thomas Mott Osborne? And what is The Castle? These questions will be answered at the Auburn, NY premiere of a new documentary about Thomas Mott Osborne on Sunday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m. at Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum. Filmmaker Neil Novello and Osborne biographer, David Connelly, will discuss the film after the screening. This program is free and open to the public.

Thomas Mott Osborne’s statue stands in front of the Auburn, NY Police and Fire Departments. The Castle refers to the 105 year-old Portsmouth Naval prison that stands empty on a bluff in the Piscataqua River separating Maine and New Hampshire adjacent to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. But what do these two (Osborne & The Castle) have in common?

It is written in the Navy’s history of the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle that Thomas Mott Osborne “introduced a new era and a new viewpoint to the Naval prison.”  From 1917 to 1921, Auburn prison reformer and resident, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the only civilian commander of the Naval Prison. Osborne hadn’t served in the Navy.

“Osborne is either a nut or a visionary,” says Pulitzer Prize winner and Auburn resident, David Connelly, who worked with Award-winning filmmaker Neil Novello from Maine on what is the only video documentary ever made about the Auburn industrialist turned humanitarian in the early 20th Century. The always-controversial Thomas Mott Osborne brought scandal, prison reform and a movie crew to the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle. ”Osborne’s command of the Naval Prison just maybe the culmination of Osborne’s prison reform career,” says Mr. Novello who started on this documentary five years ago.

Novello’s filmmaking journey started with his visit to the Syracuse University’s Bird Library to do research on Osborne. He went through box after box of Osborne’s history at the Naval Prison, which provided many great photos, newspaper articles, as well as Osborne’s writings. It was the Bird Library librarian who told Novello about Osborne biographer, David Connelly.

In the course of a year, David Connelly generously gave of his research time and family time to be a part of this documentary. Connelly knew Frederik (Erik) Osborne, TMO’s grandson, who had the remaining two reels of the Osborne-produced propaganda prison silent feature movie. “The Right Way” was filmed at the Naval Prison using prisoners as extras.

The other important person who gave generously of her time to Novello was Eileen McHugh, Director of the Cayuga Museum of Art and History. The Museum had a copy of Osborne in a 1926 experimental sound movie filmed at the Case Laboratories in Auburn where Osborne mentions the Portsmouth Naval Prison and talks about his reform ideas.

McHugh provided Mr. Novello an area in the basement of the museum to videotape David Connelly’s interview and McHugh also secured, via the Cayuga Museum’s archive, photos of early Auburn as well as Osborne and his family.

To understand Commander Osborne’s Naval prison experience, Novello needed to include Osborne’s family and his work at Auburn and Sing Sing state prisons in New York where he disguised himself as a prisoner to find out what life was like inside. When Osborne went to the Naval Prison, he disguised himself as a prisoner for a report to the Secretary of the Navy. While Commander of the Naval Prison, again Osborne disguised himself as a sailor and was a coal shoveler on the USS North Dakota as a way to understand Navy life.

Osborne became known for his Mutual Welfare League system where prisoners manage prisoners. The Mutual Welfare League was used at Auburn State prison and in Sing Sing state prison as well as the Naval prison.

With the additional photos provided by Ossining Historical Society in New York, and movie film (of Naval sea exercises and World War One) provided by the National Archive, Novello had the visual ingredients for his documentary about Osborne’s experience at the Naval Prison which in a way, culminates his prison reform career.

“It’s all about Osborne’s perspective and his thinking”, says Novello. “I did not want to make a run-of- the-mill, academic-type documentary with pros and cons. It’s about Osborne but told through his letters, film and David Connelly’s wonderful interview.”

Novello wanted to premiere TMO@The Castle in Auburn at the Cayuga Museum of Art and History’s newly restored Theater Mack. “It’s most fitting to show my documentary right here,” says Novello.

Novello has also produced a DVD called, The Castle: Stories of the Portsmouth Naval Prison which includes TMO@The Castle and a commentary to go with the remaining reels of Osborne’s feature movie, The Right Way.

Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture

A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].

Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.

A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.

The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.

At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution- his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.

Cayuga Museum Opens Newly-Renovated Theater Mack

The Cayuga Museum has announced that Theater Mack, the carriage house undergoing renovation for the past several years, has reopened. A massive brick building originally constructed around 1850 on the foundation of an earlier wooden barn, the carriage house was turned into a theater in 1941 through a collaboration between the Cayuga Museum and the Auburn Community Players.

Once known as the Museum Playhouse, the building became the cultural hub of Auburn from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. The building gradually fell into disuse after the Auburn Children’s Theater, the company that became the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, outgrew the space in the 1970’s.

The in mid-1990’s, the Board of Trustees of the Cayuga Museum set an ambitious goal of restoring each of the three buildings on the Museum property. The Museum has been steadily working on that goal ever since. Before beginning on the carriage house, the Museum completed more than $1.2 million in capital improvements on the other buildings. The Case Research Laboratory, birthplace of talking films, was restored and re-opened, and the Willard-Case Mansion in which the Museum is housed was renovated. The first phase of the carriage house project was finished in May 2010, at a cost of more than $248,000.

In 2011, the Museum named the carriage house Theater Mack in honor of long-time supporters the Maciulewicz family and their company, Mack Studios. Now, the Museum brings the project to fruition and the building returns to use as a multi-purpose space equipped for everything from a musical production to a wedding reception.

Theater Mack is a perfect little “jewel box” of a theater, retaining much of the charm of its 19th century beginnings and adding modern amenities. There is now heat, air-conditioning, restrooms, dressing rooms, and a catering kitchen, as well as a first-class sound system, and theater lights and draperies. The lower level and the main floor have been completely renovated but the second floor, where Theodore Case created a sound studio to make his test films in the 1920’s, remains intact. The Museum now turns its attention to plans for a new Case exhibit including both the laboratory and the sound studio.

It’s taken the same kind of collaboration that originally put the theater in the building during WWII to bring the project to fruition today. New York State, local foundations and many individuals and families donated more than $600,000 to the project. Several local contractors contributed their work at or below cost. The completion and re-opening of Theater Mack is a triumph for everyone involved. This totally unique building will become an asset to the Museum and the community for decades to come.

The new Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival has rented Theater Mack for ten weeks this summer for their concept show, The Pitch. The Cayuga Museum is already programming film screenings, lectures and shows for Theater Mack for the rest of the year and it is available for rent to organizations and individuals.

Cayuga Museum Opens Newly-Renovated Theater Mack

The Cayuga Museum has announced that Theater Mack, the carriage house undergoing renovation for the past several years, has reopened. A massive brick building originally constructed around 1850 on the foundation of an earlier wooden barn, the carriage house was turned into a theater in 1941 through a collaboration between the Cayuga Museum and the Auburn Community Players.

Once known as the Museum Playhouse, the building became the cultural hub of Auburn from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. The building gradually fell into disuse after the Auburn Children’s Theater, the company that became the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, outgrew the space in the 1970’s. Read more

Cayuga Museum’s History Book Club Selections Set

The History Book Club at the Cayuga Museum meets on the first Thursday of the month, at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum. Members discuss non-fiction works of history on local, national and global themes. Participation is free and readers can choose to attend any or all of the monthly meetings. Participants met recently to choose the books for the next several months.

February 2: 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann. Mann explores the global repercussions that followed European contact with the Americas: showing how European honeybees and earthworms remade New World landscapes- how New World corn, potatoes, and fertilizer ignited Eurasian population booms- how Old World diseases prompted an eruption of slavery in the Western Hemisphere- how Latin American silver undermined China’s Ming Dynasty- and how the decimation of Indian peoples changed the world’s climate.

March 1: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this groundbreaking work, Diamond offers a convincing explanation of the way the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.

April 5: The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 by Richard White. This widely acknowledged classic and Pulitzer Prize finalist tells how Europeans and Indians met, first regarding each other as alien, as other, as virtually nonhuman, and how between 1650 and 1815 they constructed a common, mutually comprehensible world in the region around the Great Lakes. Here the older worlds of the Algonquians and of various Europeans overlapped, and their mixture created new systems of meaning and of exchange. Finally, the book tells of the breakdown of accommodation and common meanings and the re-creation of the Indians as alien and exotic. First published in 1991, the 20th anniversary edition includes a new preface by the author examining the impact and legacy of this study.

May 3: David Crockett: The Lion of the West by Michael Wallis . Born into a humble Tennessee family in 1786, Crockett never &#8220killed him a b’ar&#8221 when he was only three. But he did cut a huge swath across early-nineteenth-century America—as a bear hunter, a frontier explorer, a soldier serving under Andrew Jackson, an unlikely congressman, and, finally, a martyr in his now-controversial death at the Alamo.

June 7: New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore. The little-known story of a supposed slave uprising in Manhattan in 1741, for which dozens of black men were hanged or burned at the stake. In this first-rate social history, Lepore not only adroitly examines the case’s travesty, questioning whether such a conspiracy ever existed, but also draws a splendid portrait of the struggles, prejudices and triumphs of a very young New York City in which fully one in five inhabitants was enslaved.

Carol Kammen: Upstate Women in the Civil War

Though war was &#8220no place for a woman,&#8221 many New York state women during the Civil War set off from their homes to nurse the sick and wounded. One of the projects sponsored by the Tompkins County Civil War Commission is to honor women from the county who went to war.

The Army set regulations for nurses. They were to be women between the ages of 35 and 50- they needed to be persons of experience, good conduct, superior education, serious disposition and good health. They were to be neat, orderly, sober, industrious and be willing to travel with a small amount of luggage. Their dress was to be plain, brown, gray or black, with no ornaments. They would be paid 40 cents a day or $12 a month in addition to food, housing, and transportation.

Not all women who nursed met these standards and most encountered mistrust from a number of quarters, including doctors and quartermasters and by the public who feared they might be more &#8220temptress than nurse.&#8221 The sick and wounded, however, appreciated their presence and one reportedly said to a nurse, You are the &#8220God-Blessedist Woman I ever saw.&#8221

Among the first to go to war was Susan Emily Hall who enlisted as a nurse in April 1861. Hall, born in 1826, moved with her family to a farm in the Town of Ulysses where she grew up, one of a number of children. She stayed at home and cared for her parents in their old age but when both had died, she set off to New York City to study medicine with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. After the firing on Fort Sumter, Blackwell called for nurses and urged her students to enlist. Georgeanna Woolsey reported that two groups attended classes at New York Hospital where they learned &#8220how to make beds for the wounded, cook food properly for the sick, wash and dress wounds, and others things as they come along.&#8221

In July, Dorothea Dix called Hall and Dada, who came from Syracuse, to Washington. Dada has left a diary account of their experiences- both women served to the end of the conflict. Hall returned to New York state in the spring, her health strained- Dada remained in service until the fall of 1865.

Sarah Graham Palmer, a widow of 30 with two children, left in 1862 following the great enlistment of that summer to accompany her brothers who had enlisted in the NY 109th Volunteers. She commented that it was &#8220something to brave popular opinion, something to bear the sneers of those who loved their ease better than their country’s heroes, and who could sit down in peace and comfort at home, while a soldier’s rations, and a soldier’s ten for months and years made up the sum of our luxurious life.&#8221 [Aunt Becky’s Army Life (1867), page 2.] Palmer, who became known as &#8220Aunt Becky&#8221 by the troops, returned to Ithaca in 1865 where she married and emigrated to Iowa.

Sophronia Bucklin of Cayuga County also went to war in 1862 and served under the direction of Dix, working at a variety of military hospitals. She lived out the rest of her days in Ithaca. She too left a memoir of her experiences titled In Hospital and Camp: A Woman’s Record of Thrilling Incidents Among the Wounded in the Late War (1869).

Julia Cook heard of the need for nurses in the spring of 1864. Her husband had died in the war and her son had been wounded in battle but continued with his regiment. Cook went to Washington and began nursing but she soon fell ill and was sent home to Dryden.

Cook and Bucklin are buried in Tompkins County- Hall in California, Palmer in Iowa. These women were little honored in their lifetime- a flag pole was erected over Aunt Becky’s grave in DeMoines in 2009. It seems fitting that we remember them today as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

By action of the Tompkins County Civil War Commission and the TC3 Foundation a fund was created to honor these women and provide aid to nursing students at Tompkins Cortland Community College in Dryden, New York. These will be named for Susan Emily Hall, Julia Cook, and Sarah Graham Palmer. A faculty enrichment grant will be named for Sophronia Bucklin. Donations to the Civil War Nurses Fund have come from all around the country.

Nurses came from all over the state. I have been collecting the names of women from New York who served and would be glad to post that list and add names of others to it.

Illustration: &#8220The Dying Soldier &#8211 The Last Letter From Home&#8221 by F. O. C. Darley, as it appeared in Mary A. Livermore’s My Story of the War (1888).

Carol Kammen is Tompkins County Historian, a Senior Lecturer at Cornell University, and the author of several books, including On Doing Local History: Reflections on What Local Historians Do, Why, and What It Means and The Peopling of Tompkins County: A Social History.

Cayuga Museum Names Carriage House Theater

Cayuga MuseumThe Cayuga Museum has announced the name of the carriage house theater currently undergoing restoration. When the theater re-opens in Spring 2012, it will be named Theater Mack in honor of the Maciulewicz family and their business, Mack Studios.

The Cayuga Museum has enjoyed a long association with Mack Studios. Casimir or Chuck Maciulewicz, founder of Mack Studios, was a long-time supporter and President of the Cayuga Museum Board of Trustees. Peter Maciulewicz, present owner and CEO of Mack Studios, has served on the Museum Board of Trustees for 12 years, and is currently President.

Mack Studios, now an internationally famed design company, has long donated all of the exhibit furniture and display work at the Cayuga Museum. Peter and Carol Maciulewicz have been the largest private donors to the carriage house restoration project. Since the Museum Board of Trustees decided to save the building in the 1990’s, the Museum has spent more close to $400,000 on rehabilitating the carriage house.

The carriage house, known for many years as the Cayuga Museum Annex, was a vital part of the cultural life of Auburn for decades. Installed through a collaboration between the Museum and the Auburn Community Players in 1941, the carriage house stage was home to plays, musicals, dance recitals, and more for more than 30 years. The company that is today the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse started in the carriage house in the 1960’s. The Cayuga Museum believes that the restored carriage house, Theater Mack, will once again become a vibrant community asset in Auburn.

“Carol and I are pleased to be able to help bring this project to fruition,” said Peter Mack. “We can remember coming to the carriage house for shows when we were kids. We are committed to seeing it brought back to life.”

Drivers on Washington Street will have noticed the vibrant exterior paint job that let passers-by know that something exciting was happening at the carriage house. The first phase of this renovation project, the restoration of the 1850 carriage doors, replacement of all 28 windows, and new stairways and exits was completed in 2010.

The Cayuga Museum will use Theater Mack for its own programming &#8212- lectures, slideshows, special events and more. The annual Theodore Case Film Festival, which has been held at both Cayuga Community College and the Auburn Public Theater, will come home to the Case property. And the Museum will rent Theater Mack to other organizations, creating revenue to support Museum operations. Theater Mack is one of the venues for the new Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival set to begin in Spring 2012.

Cayuga Museum: New York in the Civil War

New York supplied more men, money and material in the Civil War than any other state North or South, but New Yorkers responded to the Civil War in diverse and often contradictory ways. On Sunday, July 10 at 2:00 p.m. at the Cayuga Museum, Robert W. Arnold will present an illustrated lecture on New York during the Civil War.

Concentrating mainly on the home front, Arnold’s presentation will examine a sample of New Yorkers’ responses to the war and some individuals who exemplify them, all in the political, social and military contexts of that turbulent era. Arnold explores the social costs of the war as they played out in the farms and cities of the Empire State, in families, workplaces and neighborhoods.

Arnold is a career public historian, now retired from the New York State Archives. This Speakers in the Humanities event, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through the support of the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The lecture is part of the Cayuga Museum’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The Cost of Freedom: Cayuga County in the Civil War is the lead exhibit at the Cayuga Museum through Labor Day weekend.

On Sunday, August 21, at 2:00 the Museum will host a lecture by Dr. Laura Free of Hobart College entitled Bullets, Belles and Bloated Bodies.

On Sunday, August 28 at 2:00, the Museum will host a guided conversation titled The Gettysburg Address Challenges America.

On Thursday, September 1, the Museum’s History Book Club will discuss Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz.