Tompkins County Public Library

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Montage Histories: Tompkins County, New York, through Photographs 1864-2014


Montage Histories: 
Tompkins County, New York, through Photographs 1864- 2014, illustrates significant buildings, places, and landscapes of Tompkins County from 1864 to 2014. The exhibit will be on display in Tompins County Public Library through December 2014.
N. Aurora St. by Sierra Davenport
A collaboration between the Library, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, Tompkins Cortland Community College Department of Photography and the History Center in Tompkins County, this exhibit brings together historical research and photographic montage to demonstrate “that architecture and life of Tompkins County is not a static thing, but something that grows, changes, evolves, just as any living thing.” (Laurie Snyder). 

N. Cayuga St. by Michelle Alex

The photographers have used the practice of re-photography, in which historic images are merged with new photographs of the same site, to create montages that capture life in Tompkins County since the Civil War.  
S. Cayuga and Green Sts. by Michelle Alex

An accompanying catalogue which features all the photographs in the exhibit and additional ones created during this project, with essays and explanatory text panels by PhD students Bret Leraul and Christine Yao, will be available for sale during the exhibit.
N. Tioga and E. Seneca Sts. by Cassidy Backus
Newfield Covered Bridge by Heather Dzikiewicz
Twenty three images are on display in the Library with another fourteen included in the full color catalog.

This exhibit and accompanying catalog were made possible with funding from the New York Council for the Humanities, The Society for Humanities, Cornell University, The Tompkins County Tourism Program, Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County, Tompkins Corland Community College Photography Program and the Tompkins County Public Library Foundation.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Mightier Than The Sword: The Impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin

This exhibit, curated by Julee Johnson, is displayed  in conjunction with our Sesquicentennial Celebration and Freedom to Read/Banned Book Week, and is made possible with material on loan from the Seward House Museum in Auburn and the Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library.

Called the most popular and influential novel of the 19th century – and Sunday School fiction by her literary critics –Uncle Tom’s Cabin was intended by Stowe to change minds and inspire the abolitionist movement. An unexpected runaway bestseller when it was published in 1852, it is one of the few novels of any era to evoke an entire genre of fiction written in protest, the pro-slavery plantation novel where masters are kind and slaves are happy. 


The sway Uncle Tom’s Cabin held on Northerners and Southerners alike lit a fuse that culminated in the Civil War. The novel was misinterpreted by promoters of minstrel shows, who used exaggerated characters from the novel to amuse their audiences and demean African-Americans. Attitudes toward Uncle Tom’s Cabin have always been conflicted, which this exhibit of books, artifacts and posters explains. 

Special opening reception is being held on Friday, September 26 at 7PM, and on Sundary, September 28 at 2 PM Elmira College Professor Charlie Mitchell will present “Re-reading Uncle Tom's Cabin after Django Unchained and Twelve Years a Slave,” an illustrated lecture.  This program will be held in the Library’s BorgWarner Community Room.

Tompkins County in a Time of War: Life on the Home Front and on the Battlefield


The exhibit Tompkins County in a Time of War: Life on the Home Front and on the Battlefield opens on Friday, September 26 and will be on display in the Avenue of the Friends through December 30.


Artifacts from The History Center in Tompkins County and the Seward House Museum in Auburn tell the story of local residents as they experienced life at home and on the battlefield. See the medical bag carried by Nurse Sophronia Bucklin as she ministered to the wounded and Groton resident Doctor Tarbell’s diary, open to the first page where he describes events on the first day of battle at Gettysburg. Also included are photographs illustrating the war-time lives of little Charlotte Seward and her parents, Lt. Col. and Mrs. William Seward Jr., who lived in a 2-room log cabin at Ft. Mansfield, where their encampment was named “Camp Nellie” in her honor. Rifles, swords, books, dresses, hats, flags, banners and much more are on display in this colorful, thought-provoking exhibit.

Following are excerts from some of the text panels incorporated in the exhibit.


Life On the Battlefield

From the beginning of the declaration of war in April 1861, Tompkins County residents were intimately involved in efforts to restore the Union. The young men who enlisted at the start of the war – some of whom were members of the DeWitt Guards – were the most recognizable outcome of local patriotism. Later, after the initial fervor waned and casualties mounted, a draft was instituted in 1863 that required service by all single men between the ages of 20 and 45. The Ithaca Journal listed draftees in its July 27, 1863 issue – over 1,000 young men from Ithaca, Groton, Ulysses, Caroline and all the surrounding towns in the county were named. In addition, after passage of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, colored regiments were formed to swell the ranks of the infantry.

Some of the most durable remnants of war time are armaments and the collection at The History Center in Tompkins County is no exception. Rifles and swords were, in the instance of members of the DeWitt Guards, provided by the State of New York. Other enlistees and drafted soldiers were armed by the U.S. Army. Regardless of origin, there are fine examples of rifled muskets, single edge swords, and a bayonet on display.
Most fabrics aren’t sturdy enough to last decades, let alone centuries, so uniforms are difficult to find in collections. The two Civil War-era hats on display include a traditional soldier’s cap, or kepi, and a knitted cap worn by G.R. Williams while serving at the Elmira Prison Camp. It is easy to picture this cap being made by a loving mother or sister.

The History Center is fortunate to have been given the Sophronia Bucklin collection, items related to her time as a nurse with the Hospital Service from 1863 to 1865. This includes a partial manuscript of her book, In Hospital and Camp: A Woman’s Record of the Thrilling Incidents among the Wounded in the Late War, published in 1869. Bucklin was one of several local women who volunteered to nurse soldiers on and near the battlefields. Many women contributed to the war effort at home through the Volunteer Aid Committee and other societies but women at the front were less common. 

Janet Seward of Auburn, New York lived with her husband, Lt. Col. William Seward Jr., at Fort Mansfield and Fort Foote, near Washington, D.C., while he aided the defense of the capital. 

Accounts of war time experiences are rare, many having been written afterwards like those of Sophronia Bucklin and Janet Seward. Groton resident Doctor (his first name) Tarbell’s diary is an eye-witness account; on the first page he describes what took place on at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. Promoted several times, Capt. Tarbell was a prisoner of war in 1864-65, held in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia for five months under intolerable conditions. His telegram home contained the following message: “Out of prison, Purgatory has no terrors.”

Life on the Home Front

In 1863 Ezra Cornell asked his friend and lawyer, Francis M. Finch, to help him prepare a charter for a Library Association. The “Cornell Public Library” was incorporated on April 5, 1864 and a handsome brick three-story library building was constructed at Tioga and Seneca Streets, completed and dedicated on December 20, 1866.
It is to Ezra Cornell’s credit – and our county’s lasting benefit – that while he was taking care of business affairs, serving in the New York State Senate, and remaining involved in local charities, he could spare the time to establish a public library. All while Ithaca and the surrounding towns were actively engaged in supporting the war effort.

Hundreds of local young men enlisted after President Lincoln called for volunteers in April, 1861, when Fort Sumter surrendered to Confederate forces. One of these was Doctor Tarbell of Groton, who joined the first military unit to leave Tompkins County. Ezra Cornell himself headed a citizens’ committee to organize aid for the dependents of volunteers, contributing $1,000 to that effort. And his wife, Mary Ann Cornell, was president of the Ladies Volunteer Aid Association, which, like the Ladies Aid Society of Auburn, New York, sewed clothes, knitted socks, and purchased blankets for local men serving at the front.
Those left behind continued their daily lives but in an atmosphere of anticipation, doom and sorrow as war news made its way onto the front pages of the Ithaca Journal and into the homes of local families through personal correspondence. Mary L. Conant, Doctor Tarbell’s childhood sweetheart, heard no news of him while he was held prisoner by Confederate forces, and feared he was dead. Their story is one of the happy ones: Doctor was released and was granted leave to return home, where they were married, a union that would last for 30 years.

As the artifacts in these cases illustrate, beautiful dresses were worn to parties, patent medicines were taken, spices were ground by mortar and pestle, 14-year-old girls embroidered banners in support of the Lincoln-Johnson ticket, and the Peculiars played the Forest City team in baseball. These items are what remain of the everyday lives of Tompkins County residents during the 1860s; it is as fascinating to speculate about what is missing as what was preserved.  

This is exhibit is made possible through the generosity of the History Center in Tompkins County and the Seward House Museum in Auburn in loaning the artifacts on display.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Technology and Mental Health: a table exhibit November 10 - 28, 2014

On Friday, November 21, 2014 9:00 am - 3:30 pm the Finger Lakes Independence Center presents the 21st Annual Conference on Depression: Technology and Mental Health in the BorgWarner Community Room at Tompkins County Public Library.

In conjunction with the Conference there will be a small table exhibit on display in the Avenue of the Friends from Monday November 10 until Friday November 24.


This is a free conference with an interactive piece by the Community Role Players of Suicide Prevention Service, a panel, workshops, and a book talk; all of which focus on technology and its impact on mental health.




For more information and to register, contact David Bulkley, The Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, dbulkley@mhaedu.org or 607-273-9250.  To request an ASL interpreter or accommodations for a disability, please contact Larry Roberts, Finger Lakes Independence Center, 607-272-2433 by Tuesday, November 18 at 5pm.

The Conference is co-sponsored by Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services; Family and Children’s Service of Ithaca; Finger Lakes Independence Center; FLGEC at Ithaca College Gerontology Institute; Longview; The Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; the Multicultural Resource Center; Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service; Tompkins County Mental Health Department; Tompkins County Office for the Aging; and the Tompkins County Public Library. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tompkins County Public Library presents "The Language of War" October 22 - 7 PM

Tompkins County Public Library presents The Language of Wara dramatic reading of letters, diary entries and newspaper accounts that illustrate what residents of Tompkins County said and wrote during the Civil War.

Members of the Tompkins County Civil War Commission representing different historical characters will read the script which is by Carol Kammen, co-chair of the Commission and Tompkins County Historian.

Join us a 7 PM on Wednesday, October 22 in the BorgWarner Community Room at Tompkins County Public Library for what promises to be an informative and enjoyable evening.

Also view Tompkins County in a Time of War:  Life on the Home Front and on the Battlefield an exhibit featuring artifacts on loan from the History Center in Tompkins County and the Seward House Museum in Auburn and vividly telling the story of life in Tompkins County during the time of the Civil War and highlighting the founding of Tompkins County Public Library by Ezra Cornell in 1854.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Professor Edward Eugene Baptist speaks at TCPL on October 14, 2014 at 6 PM














Edward E. Baptist, associate professor in Cornell University’s Department of History, will give a presentation on Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War, at 6 PM on Tuesday, October 14.  


Baptist is a noted scholar and speaker on the enslavement of African Americans in the southern United States.  He teaches courses on the Civil War, slavery, the American South, masculinity, modernity and modernization, the first half of the American survey, and 19th century U.S. History. His recently-released book, “The Half Has Never Been Told:  Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” has received critical acclaim and sparked debate over its radical interpretation of American history.”

This program is being held in conjunction with the Library’s current exhibit, “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War,” a nationally traveling exhibition exploring Abraham Lincoln’s struggle to meet the constitutional challenges of the Civil War.


This 1,000 square foot, thematic exhibit offers an intriguing perspective of the challenges America’s much-heralded 16th president faced during the Civil War and describes his use of the Constitution as a guide for tackling the major issues of the war—secession of Southern states, slavery and wartime civil liberties. It is on display in the Avenue of The Friends.

The exhibit, which runs through October 30, and its corresponding programs and exhibits are being held in conjunction with Tompkins County Public Library’s year-long Sesquicentennial Celebration, “150 Years and Counting.”

Baptist’s talk is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Sally Grubb at (607) 272-4557 extension 232 or sgrubb@tcpl.org.

“Lincoln:  the Constitution and the Civil War,” a traveling exhibition for libraries, was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.   “Lincoln:  the Constitution and the Civil War” is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

TCPL offers after-hours access to exhibits during Gallery Night Friday, October 3

If you missed our special 150 Years and Counting celebration last weekend, join us on Friday, October 3, when TCPL participates in Gallery Opening Night from 5 to 8 PM.
Entry to the Library after 5 PM is through the BorgWarner Community Room door behind the Bus Shelter on Green Street.


Four exhibits are on display: Lincoln, the Constitution and the Civil War, an ALA traveling exhibit which will be at the Library through the end of October; Tompkins County in a Time of War: On the Home Front and on the Battlefield, which features artifacts used by members of the local community during the time of the Civil War and now loaned from the collection of the History Center in Tompkins County; Mightier than the Sword: The impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, the Library's featured book during Banned Books week; and Montage Histories: Tompkins County, New York, through Photographs 1864-2014 which illustrates the changes experienced by significant buildings, places and landscapes during the 150 years since the Library was founded in 1864.

View these exhibits after hours when quiet voices are not required and the Library acts as an Art Gallery and not as a Library.  Purchase a copy of the exhibit catalog for Montage Histories, available for $17.25 while stocks last.  When all copies are sold, additional copies can be obtained via "print on demand". Go to MagCloud and search for Montage Histories.  Individual copies cost $17.29 plus shipping.