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New York History & Museums

Winter in New York State can be cold and blustery. Some people tend to hibernate, but spending time inside doesn’t have to mean staying home. Throughout the state, museums and historical sites present New York’s influential history, and you’ll find much to interest and surprise you here.

Most visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City return again and again because there’s always something new to explore. Visitors appreciate the Longyear Museum of Anthropology at Colgate for similar reasons. And, if you’ve ever marveled over the famed naturalist Roger Tory Peterson’s field guides to nature, his extensive archives in Jamestown are worth a trip upstate. Two must-see museums focused on the wonders of nature are located in the Adirondacks; The Olympic Center at Lake Placid is a fantastic jumping off point for study, or simple enjoyment, of any winter sport.

Transportation museums in New York not only span the ways mobility has changed through the years: they offer historical perspective on transport innovations. Two Long Island museums focus your attention on the topic: look at ground travel via carriages (from the late 1700s to present) and at how humans propel themselves through air and space. And, the classic car museum in Norwich is nirvana for car lovers.

The pivotal roles played by New York farmers, slate quarry workers, saw mill operators, women’s rights advocates, firemen, filmmakers – and even by hippies and musicians in the ‘60s – are captured in museums too. Most of New York’s National Historic Sites were once owned by wealthy industrialists, Presidents, Governors and other leaders: visiting them offers insights into the lives of those who set key directions for our nation’s growth. ‘House museums’ maintain a focus on preserving the collections and records related to a particular person or events, such as Harriet Tubman’s role in The Underground Railroad, or of an entire family’s life. Today many serve a dual purpose as repositories for county history as well. Many fascinating local archives relate to the Civil War, Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and other important national events. The oldest Federal museum is at West Point.

During the holiday season, most of these lovingly restored mansions are decorated in period style and host open houses and special events. The famous Gilded-era Vanderbilt Mansion has a planetarium, a museum, gardens, and extensive collections of all types. New York’s folk heritage artists and fine artists continue to impact our cultural and economic lives: you’ll find historical and contemporary exhibits of their works in Woodstock, Clayton and within collections at many other galleries and museums statewide.

Winter is a great time to visit historical sites and museums, so get out of the house, then get back inside: visit someplace storied, but new-to-you!

NEW YORK CITY (NYC)

American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street
New York, NY 10024-5192
One of the world’s preeminent scientific and cultural institutions; founded 1869

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35 Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106
The country's only museum dedicated to the art, history, technique, and technology of the moving image in all its forms

Wyckoff Farmhouse & Museum
5816 Clarendon Road
Brooklyn, NY 11203
New York City’s oldest house and first official landmark

LONG ISLAND (LI)

Cradle of Aviation Museum
1 Davis Ave
Charles Lindbergh Blvd
Garden City, NY 11530
Air and Space Museum preserves Long Island's rich aerospace heritage and inspires future generations through science and technology

Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages
1200 Route 25A
Stony Brook, NY 11790
40,000 items dating from the late 1700s to the present; American artifacts of everyday life, works of art and nearly 200 historic carriages 

Vanderbilt Museum
180 Little Neck Road
Centerport, NY 11721
43-acre museum complex with Gold Coast-era mansion plus extensive collections & artifacts

HUDSON VALLEY (HV)

Historic Hyde Park
119 Vanderbilt Park Road
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Homes of Eleanor Franklin D. Roosevelt; related sites for Presidential Library, Val-Kill, museums, and more

Fireman’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) Fire Museum
117 Harry Howard Avenue
Hudson, NY 12534
Explore the history, culture, technology and service of firefighting and its impact on society

West Point Museum 
Adjacent to the Visitor Center at Thayer Gate
646 Swift Road
West Point, NY 10996
The oldest federal museum, at West Point Military Academy; origins can be traced to the American Revolution

THE CATSKILLS (CT)

Hanford Mills Museum
51 County Highway 12
East Meredith, NY 13757
One of the last 19th century saw mills to survive intact; on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places

The Museum at Bethel Woods
200 Hurd Road
Bethel, NY 12720
Captivating multi-media experiences; tells the story of the ‘60s and Woodstock

Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM)
28 Tinker Street
Woodstock, NY 12498
Since 1919, committed to exhibiting and collecting works by area artists to support Woodstock’s continuing tradition as “Colony of the Arts”

CAPITAL-SARATOGA (CS)

American-Italian Heritage Museum (January-March)
1227 Central Avenue
Albany, NY 12205
Celebrating achievements and contributions of Italian-Americans

Shaker Heritage Society (open November-mid-December & February-October)
25 Meeting House Road
Albany, NY 12211
America's first Shaker settlement; museum; regional crafters’ wares displayed mid-October through mid-December

Slate Valley Museum
17 Water Street
Granville, NY 12832
Geology & history of slate, quarrying, and immigrant culture in the Slate Valley

THE ADIRONDACKS (AD)

Plattsburgh State Art Museum
101 Broad Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
4,600+ works of art and artifacts; antiquities to contemporary collections

Olympic Center and Lake Placid Olympic Museum
2634 Main Street
Lake Placid, NY 12946
Site of 1932 and 1980 winter Olympics; fascinating history of winter sports

The Wild Center 
45 Museum Drive
Tupper Lake, NY 12986
31-acre indoor/outdoor campus; award-winning live exhibits & high-tech nature museum

THOUSAND-ISLANDS SEAWAY (TI)

Paddock Mansion
228 Washington St
Watertown, NY 13601
1870s mansion, local history museum & archives

Richardson-Bates House Museum
135 East Third Street
Oswego, New York 13126
Intact family house from 1860s

Thousand Islands Arts Center -- Home of the Handweaving Museum
314 John Street
Clayton, NY 13624
Preserves heritage arts; year-round curriculum; 100 regional artists’ work

CENTRAL-LEATHERSTOCKING (CL)

Lorenzo State Historic Site
17 Rippleton Road
Cazenovia, NY 13035
Grounds & gardens; mansion tours; built by John Lincklaen, agent of Holland Land Company; owned by five generations of family; perennially favorite December program

Longyear Museum of Anthropology
Colgate University
13 Oak Drive116 Alumni Hall
Hamilton, NY 13346
Teaching collection of artifacts from peoples around the world

Northeast Classic Car Museum
24 Rexford Street
Norwich, NY 13815
Educational facility that collects & exhibits vehicles; special emphasis on automobile’s role and impact on American culture

FINGER LAKES (FL)

Rochester Museum & Science Center
657 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607
13-acre campus, three floors of exhibits; planetarium & nature center; founded in 1912

Stickley Museum
300 Orchard Street
Fayetteville, NY 13066
History of American arts & crafts design in fine woodworking and furniture

The Harriet Tubman Home
180 South Street
Auburn, NY 13021
Home and legacy of the leader of the Underground Railroad

The Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls 
89 Fall Street
Seneca Falls and Waterloo, NY 13148
Commemorates the birthplace of the Women's Rights Movement

GREATER NIAGARA (GN)

Forest Lawn (Sundays, January-April)
Forest Lawn Cemetery
1411 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14209
Concerts & lectures related to Forest Lawn “residents” in the historic chapel

Graycliff Estate
6472 Old Lake Shore Road
Derby, NY 14047
Holiday experiences in an estate by the renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright

Nash House
36 Nash Street
Buffalo, NY 14204
Home of the most widely known and respected African-American in the city in first half of 20th century; winter tours by appointment

CHAUTAUQUA-ALLEGHENY (CA)

Fenton History Center
67 Washington Street
Jamestown, NY 14701
Fenton (Governor of NYS, 1865-1959) mansion was built 1863; Italian Villa style; National Register of Historic Places; exhibits on Civil war, Lucille Ball, more

McClurg Museum
Routes 394 and 20
Westfield, NY 14878
14-room Federal-style mansion on National Register of Historic Places; period displays – fine art, Victorian nursery & more - on three floors; home of Chautauqua County Historical Society

Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History
311 Curtis Street
Jamestown, NY 14701
Preserves & exhibits famed naturalist’s extensive body of work; art, correspondence, film, libraries, study skins, much more

 

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