The Cazenovia Public Library has a number of collections that have come to it through donations over the 100 years of its existence. Objects of all sorts have gravitated to it because it has served since its founding as the community’s “attic”, and so, by default, its historical society. What follows is a summary of its holdings.
Natural History Collection: Interesting minerals, fossils, dried sea creatures, birds and bird eggs and other such objects. The birds and eggs, mounted in a large, late 19th century case in a manner typical of the times, were collected in the 19th century by Robert Hubbard, and include an example of the extinct Passenger Pigeon and a Quetzal of Central America, whose long, brilliant green tail feathers were precious to the Maya and Aztecs of Mexico; their rulers wore them in their headdresses. The minerals were collected in the 19th and early 20th centuries by a number of Cazenovians, as were the sea creatures.
Ethnographia: A number of cultures are represented. There is a strong grouping of Native American objects, some of local origin, some from cultures across the continent, from the East Coast to Alaska. There are also material culture objects from Africa, New Guinea and other areas.
Egyptiana: On his Grand Tour with his son in 1894, Robert Hubbard visited Egypt for an extended period and collected a number of artifacts, including a complete mummy and its case, and beautiful parts of others, (several masks, breastplates and sandals), ushabtis, scarabs and other material. He purchased this material specifically for an upstairs museum in the original library building, which has now been transferred to a room on the ground floor specifically designed for it and recently updated, thanks to grants from the Central New York Community Foundation, the library’s Friends Association and the Robert Constable trust, to include an electronic touch-screen presentation on Hubbard’s trip down the Nile.
Souvenirs of the Grand Tour: Hubbard and other Victorian Cazenovia travelers collected souvenirs of their travels in a manner no longer allowed: stones and mortar from the Great Pyramids, pieces of a fresco from Pompeii, stones from Hadrian’s Villa, and pieces of tile from the Alhambra. They also collected little natural history specimens such as seahorses, fragments of lava and olive leaves from the Garden of Gethsemane. Many of these things were carefully labeled and put in little boxes, and a number of them can be seen in the Library’s Egyptian Gallery.
Objects of Local Importance: Over the years, the Library has accumulated many things important to local history. A collection of five patent models created in the Cazenovia area was recently donated by Ann and Alan Rothschild.
A collection of locks manufactured here by the American Lock Company, bought out after three years of operation in Cazenovia by the Yale Lock Co. of Stamford, Connecticut, was donated some years ago by Don Haley, Cazenovia’s resident locksmith of many years. A number of things owned and used by the settler generation, lanterns, carriage foot warmers, lanterns, tools, etc., are included in the collection.
Manuscripts and Ephemera: Stored in the Library’s archive room are documents and photographs of importance to the area. These include papers and diaries of families who settled and lived in Cazenovia, historic photographs, letters, land deeds and maps. Papers from the Dan Weiskotten Collection are also available by appointment. Dan Weiskotten (1960-2005) was archaeologist, town of Cazenovia historian and an active library volunteer. His research on Cazenovia, Nelson, and Fenner history is available on-line: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyccazen/.
Art Collection: The Library’s art collection has been assembled entirely through donation.
The bulk of its collection of local painter Dwight Williams’ work, some 600 pastels, drawings and oil painting, a large percentage of which are of local scenes, were given by Richard Hubbard, who, with his family, had supported the artist’s work for many years. Other generous donors have contributed major works by Williams. Williams (1856-1932) painted in Cazenovia, Europe and Mexico, and taught at a number of art academies. His best-known student was Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928), who went beyond the teacher to national and international acclaim. He is represented by one work in the collection, given by his sister in honor of Dwight Williams.
William Boardman (1817-1895) was born in Cazenovia and entered its Seminary at the age of 13. A somewhat primitive painting of Cazenovia’s main street is attributed to him at that age. By 1841 he was painting portraits and moving around the country. He returned to Cazenovia in 1848, set up a studio on Albany Street and produced several commissioned paintings. One of these, a view of the village square, was commissioned by Boardman’s landlord, General Hough, and given to the library by Hough’s grandchildren. A view of Cazenovia Lake from Owera Point was painted in 1883 during another of Boardman’s stays in Cazenovia.
The American Impressionist Frank Townsend Hutchins (1869 - 1937) of Canandaigua, New York is represented in the collection by a landscape circa 1890.
Charles Welsch (1828-1904), a Geman-born painter, lived in the village and taught at the Cazenovia Seminary from 1851-1854. He went on to live, work and teach in Cincinnati, Frankfort, and Rome. While in Rome, Welsch’s most notable student was John Singer Sargent, who worked in his studio as a young teen. The Library owns one of Welsh’s European landscapes and a pencil sketch of Cazenovia Lake. Other paintings of his are housed at Lorenzo, the seat of the Ledyard family in Cazenovia, whom Welsch visited, and which is now a New York State Historic Site. The library’s collection also includes a portrait of New York State Governor Dewitt Clinton, credited with seeing the Erie Canal through, painted by George Kasson Knapp (1822-1910) of Syracuse in 1864.
More modern works in the collection include photographs by Cazenovia photographer Rita Hammond (1924-1999) and the works of other contemporary photographers and painters.