I am not usually a person who finds themselves at a loss for words, and yet, when it came time to put down my thoughts on the Adirondack Museum, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum.
Where do I begin?
So, like I do whenever I'm faced with uncertainty, I turned to the American Romantics - the great American writers of the 19th Century who found themselves on the precipice of a new world and contemplated, like I was, "Where do I begin?" Walt Whitman had the answer:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Like the mountains themselves, the Adirondack Museum contains multitudes, and the honest and genuine contradiction intrinsic to human history.
Before the 19th Century, North America was, in large part, a foreboding wilderness; perilous, uncivilized and to be avoided. As we ventured west, and as we slowly realized the potential of our landscape, the perception of wilderness changed. No longer was wilderness exploration a frightening prospect, but rather an exciting new opportunity to uncover the brilliance and majesty of an undiscovered country. By 1820, residents of Boston and New York began to turn to the Adirondack Mountains to hunt, to fish and to experience a pristine vista, an escape from urban claustrophobia. They came for adventure, they came for experience, they came to build a closer relationship with nature and more importantly to build a closer relationship with their own humanity.
The Adirondack Museum is a celebration of these intrepid explorers and also those who came later. In 24 exhibits you can learn the fascinating history of the Adirondacks. It is a story of potential deforestation to constitutionally protested state park. It is the story of the American Romantics of Mountain Hermits and of American Industrialists and the Native Americans of the Adirondack region. It is the story of simple homesteads and gilded age Great Camps and the people who lived, worked and played within our mountain range.
The entire museum is a true gem chock-a-block of historical artifacts, mechanical wonders and everywhere you look has a story to tell. A few of my favorite exhibits include:
Work in the Woods
"When I was your age, I used to walk 15 miles to school, uphill both ways..." That was what my parents said anyway. Whenever I go through the Work in the Woods exhibit I tell myself, "I will never again complain about being cold. I will never again complain about being dirty. I will never again complain about being hungry. I will never again complain about being tired." These early beginnings of industry in the Adirondack Mountains are beautifully illustrated in the equally humbling and fascinating exhibit, "Work in the Woods".
Boats and Boating in the Adirondacks
I do love pretty shiny things. And I do love old school quality craftsmanship. There is nothing quite like getting out on the water of an Adirondack lake in a beautiful handmade wooden boat. The museum's Boats and Boating exhibit celebrates a wonderful history of Adirondack watercraft from genuine Adirondack guide boats to inboard motorboats like the one above crafted by the legendary John Hacker.
The Adirondack Experience
More than anything, life in the Adirondacks is about the thrill of the experience and in their new exhibit The Adirondack Experience, the Adirondack Museum beautifully illustrates Adirondack culture, from the Jon Rondeau's modest hermit cabin to Adirondack Great Camp style.