Monday, June 25, 2012

Museum Displays

     I have been writing a history of the Agricultural Museum at Cornell to preserve some of the heritage of  this component of Cornell that was established in 1873.   Between 1873 and today the museum was disbanded and the collections were either lost, trashed or in some cases stored at various locations on campus.  There were six major components to the early museum and only fragments of three of the major components still exist.   I have restored the remnants of  two of the collections; the Rau plow models and the sales and patent models of agricultural machinery.   This activity has sparked my interest in museums in general and more specifically museums that display agriculturally related items.   Therefore, I have been on a quest to understand how museums select and display their wares.   Also the quest has led me to observe displays of artifacts in other settings.   Beyond the Johnson Art Museum on the Cornell Campus one can find a multitude of historical artifact displays in a number of other buildings.
     My curiosity has taken me to observe antique veterinary medicine instruments displayed in a hall way adjacent to the Veterinary College Library, the glass models of invertebrates at the Mann Library and the Corson-Mudd atrium and the Rouleaux mechanical models at Upson Hall.   Each of these sites have done a magnificent orderly presentation of their collections.    Saturday I enjoyed viewing the collections in the Central New York Living History Center in Homer, New York.   Several weeks ago I also had a chance to see an impressive set of displays at the Shelburne Museum in  Shelburne, Vermont.   All of these activities have given me inspiration for setting up a display of  the remaining Cornell Agricultural Museum artifacts in Riley-Robb Hall.
An Elegant Display - Corson-Mudd Atrium
    Our mini-museum now has a proposed site and plans are under way to acquire trophy cases and signage to tell the story of the Cornell Agricultural Museum.   At the same time we look backward at the history of engineering in agriculture as displayed in our collections we will also display items of the present and point to the future.   I think geezers are especially qualified to help preserve history, but also can creatively point to the trends for the future.

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