From artifacts to firefighting to ‘artzoo’ and more
By Bonnie J. Ross
The Capital Region has a treasure of museums, offering numerous exhibits and activities for multiple ages and interests. Explore current offerings for learning and enjoyment at this sampling of area facilities right in our background.
NYS Museum (Albany)
February offerings include a multi-exhibit project on the Shakers, featuring over 300 images and artifacts; an exploratory kid space; and a gallery of the 1936 WPA project to document Shaker lifestyle by photographers Vicentini and Herlick. Also up (though February 21) are exhibits on American Marine and Maritime life and contemporary Native American art.
Albany Institute of History and Art (Albany)
Ongoing exhibits include 19th century American sculpture; the culture of Colonial Albany; Abraham Lincoln’s connections to Albany; collections of glass utilitarian and artistic; and Ancient Egypt. The Institute is also running several shorter-term exhibits, including a collection of 50 objects meant to encompass the Capital Region’s identity and a 225th anniversary highlight of the collection.
Shaker Heritage Society (Albany)
The museum, home of America’s first settlement of Shakers, opens for its 39th season on February 2. The Museum’s goals, through exhibits and events, are to cultivate and sustain not only a record of the Shakers but also living traditions of Shaker values. The Society offers school field trips and tours, program/lectures for adults, and special community events. February 6th is a Psychic Faire and Spirit Circle, to benefit preservation of a Shaker cemetery. On February 29, there will be a 280th birthday celebration for Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers.
Museum of Innovation and Science (Schenectady)
This exploratory museum, known as MiSci, is bringing back last year’s indoor butterfly exhibit, starting February 13. On February 16, join Dudley Observatory educators, with some local amateur astronomers, for a family astronomy lesson. On February 28, the museum will present a sensory-based science experience for autistic children. Also happening in February is a winter break science program from February 15-19 for grades K-8.
Children’s Museum of Science and Technology (Troy)
Unlike a typical “museum,” this place (affiliated with SUNY) offers museum-goers a more exploratory experience. Moving through physics, meteorology, biology, technology, geography and more via multiple creative environments, children get a sensory, tactile education here. There are places to explore construction, inventions, meteorology and energy, natural sciences, zoology and nanoscience.
The Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield)
This museum describes itself as a combination of art, history and natural sciences – of the Berkshires and beyond. Special and ongoing exhibits in February include “ArtZoo,” a combination gallery exhibit and interactive exploration, structured zoo-like by species; “Berkshire Backyard,” which showcases the local ecology via the museum’s historic stuffed animal collection, and animal tracking and identification activities; and an exhibit of painter and collage-artist Peter Gordon, who uses his medium to comment on local and larger environmental concerns. The museum also has a geology gallery, a hall documenting local innovators, an aquarium, and an extensive fine art collection.
The Clark (Williamstown)
The Clark, in addition to its large permanent collection, has two special exhibits during (and beyond) February. “An Eye for Excellence,” highlighting the major acquisitions of the past 20 years, includes Jacques Louis David, Charles Nègre, John Constable, George Inness, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, and many others. “Thomas Schütte: Crystal” is an interactive sculpture on the Clark’s grounds, based on the concept of a magnified crystal structure where visitors can walk through and stand inside this wood and zinc-coated copper structure. The Clark also presents ongoing art lessons, gallery talks, concerts, and film screenings.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst)
Dedicated to art that encompasses many genres—children’s book illustrations—the Eric Carle museum is a wonderful place for those who are children, have children, or have been children. With children’s art classes, story times, illustrator talks and music programs, this is a museum well-worth exploring! Exhibits in February include a nearly 50-year retrospective of Eric Carle and works for his upcoming book; a show of Mary Blair, who worked as an illustrator for both Disney and Golden Books; and William Pène du Bois, best known, perhaps, for The Twenty-one Balloons.
Olana, home of Hudson Valley School artist Frederic Edwin Church, is beautiful and fascinating in and of itself, as an architectural oddity. It sits gracefully on top of a hill overlooking the Hudson, but it does not reflect a kinship with local aesthetics, drawing rather on Middle-Eastern patterns, colors and decor (adapted, architecturally, to a 19th century villa configuration). Open for house tours through the winter (special exhibits are only Spring-Fall), Olana also has special events. February offers a lecture on Hudson ice-boating on the 6th; a snowshoeing trek the 13th; and children’s art classes, artist talks, and a sampler sewing workshop.
FASNY Museum of Firefighting (Hudson)
FASNY is a fascinating place not only for children interested in being a firefighter, but also for adults who like history. The museum has over 60 fire engines and a plethora of firefighting gear, as well as exhibits on firefighting from Ancient Rome to now, Currier and Ives prints of firefighters, firefighting in the New Netherlands, and interactive “play” firefighting environments. The museum offers guided tours and presentations, including a children’s program on February 20th about the science of fire.