Saturday, July 14, 2012

Museum Learning

Farmer Wayne with Restored Plow
   Thursday's adventure was a journey to the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown, New York.   Cooperstown is about a two hour drive from our home through the back roads and farms of central New York.   Modern and marginal farming are a part of the rural scene.   The Farmer's Museum captures the essence of bygone farming and rural living with exhibits of tools, businesses, and trades of the colonial through 1800's period.
   I was particularly interested in the farm machines and tools of the past.   Since I have been working with the model artifacts of the now defunct Cornell University Agricultural Museum I was especially interested in the full sized plows and other agricultural machinery on display.  Much to my delight I saw full sized models of ancient plows, harrows, threshers, dump rakes and so on.   Many of these implements were full sized versions of models from the Cornell Agricultural Museum.   During my visit I had a chance to converse with "Farmer Wayne" who serves as a part of the museum crew in period costume welcoming and informing visitors.   We shared stories of plow design and use and the vagaries of proper plow adjustment.   He also showed me a plow they had restored using the skills of the museum's blacksmith and other artisans of their group.  I was able to identify the plow as a late 1800's model similar to a model we have in our Cornell collection.
     In addition to observing the farm equipment Nancy and I also learned about the early practice of medicine, unusual pharmaceuticals, printing, and early law practice.   It was further striking to observe the tools of the various trades of basket making, barrel making, plumbing, leather working, carpentry, tinsmithing and on and on.   There was a huge amount of knowledge and lore on display.   One cannot but wonder how we would be able to recreate all those skills if we were suddenly thrust into a world without cell phones, computers, electricity and all the modern conveniences.  Undoubtedly the old codgers who had preserved the skills of the 1800's and colonial America would be in high demand.
    I have no desire to live in the America of the 1800's, but it is good to admire the ingenuity of our ancestors and to learn that one can survive and thrive in any era.
1800's Era Mower

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