Friday, May 8, 2020

Once Upon a Time there was a Museum in Blue Mnt. Lake

Disclosures and Allegations
BLUE MNT LAKE--Albert Blanchard took Craig Gilborn aside and said the museum would not do well. It was in the cafeteria at the going away party for Tony Rovito. Tony and ‘Brother’ Blanchard played golf together. Craig had left the museum weeks earlier, ending the season—his 21st—with a count of 100,969 visits. The museum had done well and was readied for the future. Responsibility in town was a bond between two different men who were not friendly but had helped one another. Brother was superintendent at Eagle Nest, and he had a shop and yard in town, doing excavating and hauling work. His tank truck brought oil—lots were needed—to the museum. Durant Road in town had four households with a Blanchard in it. There was a Blanchard Cottage at the museum and Autumn Blanchard got work at the museum after college. Albert ‘Brother’ Blanchard was killed the next month, when his truck went off a narrow bridge at Eagle Nest and into the water.
Craig Gilborn wrote about the Adirondack Museum when he had not visited it in over a decade. His book Whose History: A Museum Memoir (published by his wife’s Blueline Press) traced the origins of the museum back to 1900 and saw city bias in changes at the museum. Albert Blanchard’s remark fifteen years earlier, in 1992, had come to pass. Afterword was his response to a rebranding (“more than a museum”) by a board having little demonstrated interest in Adirondack history but lots in a healthy Adirondacks, where they owned property or had an interest in it.
M’AM replaces Adirondack Museum here. As MOMA means Museum of Modern Art, M’AM retains ‘museum’ but conjures pies in the oven. The apostrophe is the handsome stranger at the kitchen door.
“Americans don’t like museums” Brian Mann, bureau chief at North Country Public Radio, quoted the museum’s executive director, in his report of April, 2017. The claim is untrue, as David Kahn had reason to know. It likely originated within the board before 2011, the year it hired him. Headhunters and marketing consultants know what clients want to hear.
850 million visits to American museums exceed 483 million fans to major league sporting events and theme parks. (American Alliance of Museums). Attendance at M’AM averaged 96,000 nine years in a row, 1983-1992. Decline followed when the board was in charge and the first director it chose was installed. Attendance was no longer announced, accountability with it.
Support and governance at the Wild Center and the Adirondack Museum originates in New York City. Was the Wild Center the museum board’s pretext for change? The museum was losing visitors ten years at least before the Wild Center opened.
“Informed choices for the future” (web page) is whoever decides the agenda. Removing a mining exhibition, an instance of Orwell’s ‘who controls the present controls the past,’ is only the most egregious instance of a decider behind the arras.
Mining was important for 200 years, paralleling the lumber industry and possibly exceeding it. But mining was taboo in a Forever Wild park. The exhibit had been planned and installed by Cooperstown and Hagley graduates, in a building designed by a firm in Albany and dedicated to the museum’s founder, Harold Hochschild, a mining executive.
Harold K. Hochschild (May 20, 1892 – January 23, 1981) was the president of the American Metal Company, a conservationist, a philanthropist, and the founder of the Adirondack Museum
Museums work with what they have and should respond to the verdict of the public and critics. Given the harness of museum work, boards and administrations are advised to grasp before trying to seize. Museums are not a theme park.
A daughter’s “nice Gooky exhibit” reminded her father, A.E. Parr, of shortcomings of installations he had seen as director of the American Museum of Natural History. And “Gooky” reminded him of exhibits he had seen as a boy in Norway.
Could it be known, the outlay of labor and money was small in the 1950’s by comparison to starting and operating a museum today.
M’AM began with Township 34 and the site of a summer hotel. From 1955-1957 until 1964, the museum got opened and operated with five key players: Hochschild, Inverarity, Adams, Johnson—founder, director, architect, general contractor. No consultants, no committees. An on-site caretaker fetched donations in his pickup.
Always a work-in-progress, the museum steadily built and improved. What visitors saw was priority #1. Programs came after completion of the R&R Building in 1964. By 1972, Harold and his brother, Walter, left matters to the director, although budgets were approved by them.
M’AM was being positioned to deal with the Adirondack environment, officially in the Eco-Trail proposal of 1990, but preceded by the Merwin Hill development of the 1980’s. The board, preoccupied by unsettled questions of financial support, listened but did not respond.
Its setting overlooking a lake needed no Little Sir Echo; the outdoors was the context for its collections, and the interplay was not lost on visitors. People were comfortable and at ease, and messaging would be like posting “This is a herd path” signs on Adirondack trails.
‘Resident’ and ‘Non-Resident’: City people are a part of Adirondack history. Each has its own history, their interacting being the area where circles overlap. interacting where two circle overlap. City people lived elsewhere and had money because of it.
Residents sent their children to public schools and voted when non-resident taxpayers were away. The two were respectful but apart. City people held the trump cards. Residents said little.
Jeanne Robert Foster spoke for the neighbors she knew as a girl, in the southeast quarter of the Adirondacks, in Johnsburg, N.Y. Born poor in 1879, she was a poet and corresponded with artists and personages she met in Europe and New York. She is buried in Chestertown, N.Y. In 1970, she received an honorary degree from Union College. The academic robe she wore is at the Adirondack Museum.
“The Adirondack farmers and lumbermen were a shrewd, kindly, simple people bound together by a clannishness that gave them the feeling that they were a race apart from dwellers in towns.” Jeanne Robert Foster, 1916.
“Why don’t we have nice gooky exhibits like this in New York?” Teen daughter to dad, A.E. Parr, 1950s.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” William Faulkner, 1951.
“Who controls the present controls the past,” George Orwell, 1949.

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