Ontario County Historical Society is charged with preserving and promoting the history of western New York State. The charge was refined in our Strategic Plan that was adopted in 2007 and updated in 2009.
We operate a 10,000ft2 museum in Canandaigua, NY, that was chartered by the NYS Education Department in 1902. I am sure you can see why we were thrilled to be the recipient of a Museums for America Grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) in the fall of 2010 to develop an exhibition on the early history of what is now western New York. The exhibit will be examining how human desires affected the early development of western NY and shaped the region, as we know it today. The Exhibit will examine the period 1650 - 1850. It will largely focus on personalities active in the region during the period.
The exhibit is scheduled to open in the fall of 2012 but there is much work to be done.
We have been looking at the subject for about 18 months and have used NY Council on the Humanities grants and New York State Council on the Arts grants for museum advancement to fund the project. One of the aspects of the research I enjoy is the discussion with humanities scholars. From these discussions we have gained an understanding of the variety of issues of the time. The early discussions set us to work identifying the influential personalities that will be the subject of the exhibition.
There are several personalities that come to mind but the county's founder, Oliver Phelps is my personal favorite. As a Revolutionary War patriot he was a Procurement Officer in the Continental Army and boasted of having $1,000,000 dollars at one time. He and Nathanial Gorham, who participated in the Continental Congress purchased All of Western NY west of the 77th Meridian (Preemption Line) from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1789 and proceeded to sell the land.
That event took place in the middle of our timeframe. What happened before and after and who were the principal players? We will develop a list of 15 or so people and proceed to research their personal desires... such as Greed.