Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What did you do on your summer vacation?

By: Doug Kendall, Curator of Collections
It’s a gloomy late October afternoon in Cooperstown. The leaves are down, there’s word of blizzards out West and summer vacation is only a distant memory.

This past summer my family visited Prince Edward Island, Canada, as we often do—my parents first visited PEI in 1967 and now my wife , son and I continue that tradition. The drive allows us to see parts of New England and New Brunswick along the way. There’s usually some time for a busman’s holiday too and this year we stopped on the way home to visit the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John. It’s neat place with historical and art exhibits located in the historic uptown harbor area—inside an urban mall, of all places.

We took some pictures of Saint John to jog our memories on damp fall afternoons like this one. The tradition of bringing home visual reminders of vacations goes way back, though. The photography collections here at the Fenimore Art Museum include such personal mementoes.

When I was young, one of my uncles would invariably show slides of his vacations when we all got together for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Sometimes this was entertaining, sometimes not so much.

Nowadays, those have been supplanted by Powerpoint presentations, family web site and blogs. One hundred years ago, the vacation slide show was well established, but in those days the slides were made of glass and they were shown with a lantern slide projector.

A few years ago, the Museum acquired a collection of lantern slides taken about 1905 in an online auction. We were interested in them because most of the scenes were of Otsego County, our part of upstate New York. When we received them, it seemed that the set was taken on someone’s summer vacation. We don’t know who the tourists were, but they were clearly taken by Otsego Lake scenery and the lakefront in Cooperstown village. They also spent time elsewhere in the area, as there are several slides of the Major’s Inn in Gilbertsville as well as other locations. The tourist who took these lantern slides didn’t often focus on people. But this image of boys wading in the lake somehow seems much more recent than the early 20th century. The summer vacation was still a new phenomenon to most Americans at that time, so early documentation of one family’s trip to Otsego County is an intriguing addition to the Museum’s collections.
So…what did you do on your summer vacation?
From top to bottom:
Boys Wading in Otsego Lake. N0006.2004(19) Museum Purchase.
Otsego Lake with Kingfisher Tower. N0006.2004(10) Museum Purchase.
The Major’s Inn, Gilbertsville, NY. N0006.2004(26) Museum Purchase.
Lakefront Park with docks, Otsego Lake. N0006.2004(23) Museum Purchase.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Doug,

We met almost 10 years ago during an interview trip to Cooperstown . . . I'm now the website manager for the New Brunswick Museum and do searches every now and then to see what people are saying about us on various blogs, etc.

I loved the Fenimore, Farmers Museum and Cooperstown and sometimes wonder what might have been. But very happy in my current situation and nice to see your name pop up. I travel to NYC several times a year and hope to make it back to Cooperstown one of these days.

Glendon Thomson

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