Origins of the Museum at the Cazenovia Public Library
Each year thousands of visitors gather at the Library to explore and enjoy the museum collection. This collection, comprised of donations from Cazenovia locals, would not have been possible without the vision of one man, Mr. Robert James Hubbard. This is the story of how a library became a museum.
Robert James Hubbard was born in Utica, New York on May 31st 1830 to a prominent local family. Hubbard had a lucrative career at the NYC brokerage firm of Southworth & Litchfield. He maintained his interests in history and natural sciences through clubs and organizations including the New York Historical Society, to which he was a lifetime member. In 1875 he relocated to his wife’s hometown of Cazenovia, NY where he continued his philanthropy and pursuit of lifelong learning.
100 Albany Street
In 1886, the Cazenovia Public Library Society was formed and by 1890 outgrew its initial rented rooms. Robert Hubbard purchased the recently vacated William House, a Greek-Revival building, sitting on the main thoroughfare and gifted it to the Library Society to house their collections.
Along with the gifted property, Hubbard proposed to the Society that:
“the Board of Managers each year appoint a committee from among the members of the Cazenovia Public Library Society for the purpose of gathering and preserving objects of art, curios, and papers of historic value, and especially such as are of local interest.”
Hubbard hoped the curated collections would teach, inspire, and cultivate curiosity among the lesser-traveled Cazenovia citizens.
A Grand Tour
During this era, exciting discoveries captivated Europe and America, inspiring travel and exploration of foreign cultures. In 1894, Mr. Hubbard and his son embarked upon a formal cultural tour of Europe and North Africa known as a Grand Tour. This tour was conducted by Thomas Cook & Sons.
Hubbard intended to collect items along his 10-month journey to add to the Library’s collection for all to enjoy.
Inspired by the Western world’s newfound love of Ancient Egypt, known as Egyptomania, the Hubbard’s trip included a lengthy stay and exploration of Egypt and the Nile. He hoped these items would form the bulk of his collection.
The jewel of Hubbard collection was to be an Egyptian mummy. At the peak of Egyptomania, the Egyptian government sanctioned the sale of mummies and with the help of local antiquities agent, Costi Bochoridis, found “something that will answer for our Caz Library”
Mr. Hubbard recorded his travels in a diary. This artifact is currently in the archvies of the Lorenzo State Historic Site (Cazenovia, NY).
cataloging a gift
Hubbard curated his collection carefully and documented each find and its suspected history with its own label.
Hubbard’s treasures arrived via train in May 1894 and upon Hubbard’s return were unpacked and prepared for exhibition at the Library. The Library hosted a Mummy Tea and invited the curious community to enjoy the ancient treasures. The tea was enjoyed by hundreds of fascinated visitors, who for many, had never seen such a foreign collection before.
Following the exhibition’s opening, Hubbard continued to use his collection to educate the community. A presentation to Ms. Dow’s Cazenovia Seminary class was recounted in his 1903 book of reminiscences. His lecture reviewed the collection and the customs of the Ancient Egyptians.
Hubbard’s legacy of the museum lives on to this day. His collection remains on display for people to enjoy and has grown to included other collections inspired by Hubbard’s dream of honoring the cultures and world wonders past central New York’s horizons.
Hubbard’s Legacy is a digital exhibit. Items from Hubbard’s Egyptian Collection can be viewed during Library hours. There is no charge.
If you take issue with any of the content included, please send your concerns to Cazenovia@midyork.org