Posts Tagged ‘Walter Elwood Museum’

I read with interest an editorial in the Schenectady Gazette regarding the Walter Elwood Museum and it’s possible relocation. I divert in thought from ideas expressed by the author in a few ways.

I agree that all challenges come with mixed blessings and that this may be an opportunity for the museum to reassess its collections and pare down to what is deemed “essential”. I also believe the collections should be carefully looked at in terms of its current mission and vision before they are parted with, which are not specifically about preserving local history.

WEM Mission

The Walter Elwood Museum is a gateway to learning using the past to illuminate the present. Utilizing local experience, stories and artifacts, we examine history and culture in all its dimensions. We offer educational programs, unique collections and creative activities to enrich understanding of ourselves and each other.

WEM Vision

As a cultural center, the Museum inspires curiosity, creativity, and understanding of our past and present. The Museum promotes a dynamic, rich, unified community that values its heritage.

As you see, the illuminative mission of the museum is to interpret all history and culture through local experience, not the preservation of local artifacts. This allows for the utilization of the diverse collections (which have origins from around the world and through time) in new and unique ways that inspire pleasure, curiosity and reflection.

The museum’s collections should be very carefully evaluated before they are offered up for auction, with an eye toward mission and creative usage. A critical challenge for the Walter Elwood Museum has always been the interpretation of its permanent collections, which include not only local history materials, natural history collections, and Native American collections, but other cultural materials from around to the world. Elwood himself acquired some of the objects, and for over six decades, local residents responding to Elwood’s passion for object-based learning contributed many others.

With this potential relocation, the museum may create new exhibits focused on the qualities of its namesake Walter Elwood: teacher, explorer, collector, tradition-bearer, naturalist and prominent community activist. Delving into his passions for traveling & collecting, his drive to understand global culture as well as personal and local history, his commitment to education, and his dedication to community service, the museum may offer global perspectives that go beyond the reaches of our City limits.

They may also spotlight the contributions of other individuals in our community that exemplify these qualities. In this way, our community is given the chance to celebrate the attributes of individuality, commonality, and creative pursuit that bring color and life to all people while also attracting an audience with interests outside of the immediate area.

By interpreting the collections through the kaleidoscopic personality of Walter Elwood or the stories of local experience, the museum has an opportunity to feature exotic and varied items that have been sequestered away for decades. It would serve everyone to design changing exhibits in the new location that combine objects on display, storage, studios, archived materials, and play space. That way, the balance of the collection could go into storage and be circulated out according to the curricular needs of the schools, season or in response to current events.

Ultimately, the vision of the museum is to create a strengthened community through the understanding and acceptance of history, art, the sciences and culture. May it always be so.

The museum is a valuable resource for students and families and is vitally important to the revitalization of Amsterdam. I encourage all of you reading these local blogs to provide for the museum with your time and/or financial support. As is true in every situation, it’s the individual contributions of each person that make the difference.

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