The New York State Museum has announced the acquisition of over 100,000 archaeological artifacts from Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts, documenting Dutch and early English settlement of the Albany area in the 17th century.
The State Museum plans to open an exhibition featuring artifacts from the Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts collections in 2018.
Archaeological excavations in the early 1970s under the direction of Dr. Paul Huey resulted in the recovery of 36,000 artifacts from Fort Orange and over 80,000 artifacts from Schuyler Flatts. Among the thousands of artifacts recovered are everyday items such as ceramic plates, tobacco pipes, drinking glasses, firearm parts, and food remains.
Trade items in the collection include glass beads, mouth harps, and other items. Together, these two collections tell the story of the first Native Americans who lived in the Upper Hudson Valley for thousands of years before Europeans arrived, interaction between Native people and the first Dutch Colonists, the development of Fort Orange as a trading center, the establishment of Rensselaerswijck, and everyday life in 17th century New Netherland.
Fort Orange was established along the Hudson River near present-day Albany by the Dutch West India Company in 1624. The fort was the first permanent settlement in New Netherland and was well-situated to take advantage of the lucrative beaver pelt trade. Dutch officials were eager to populate the new Colony with settlers and bestowed large land grants, called “patroonships”, to individuals who would transport farmers and tradesmen to the colony.
The Patroonship of Rensselaerswijck encompassed the entire area around Fort Orange and was by far the most successful of these colonies. One of the chief farms and trade outposts within Rensselaerswijck was established in 1643 by Arent Van Curler on the rich agricultural lands along the Hudson River about 5 miles north of the fort. This stretch of river bottom would later be called Schuyler Flatts after Phillip Pieterse Schuyler who acquired the property in 1672. The archaeological remains of both Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts are now listed as National Historic Landmarks.
The Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts collections were transferred to the New York State Museum by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Some of the artifacts remain on public exhibition at Crailo State Historic Site in Rensselaer, Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston, and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in Albany.
Photos of some of the artifacts from the Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts collections are available here.
The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website.
Photos: The remains of a delft bowl, and below, trade beads (from the Fort Orange and Schuyler Flatts Collections, NYS Museum).