The Cayuga Museum, in Auburn, is beginning a new monthly program. Called simply word., the new event will debut on Thursday, February 19 at 7 pm in Theater Mack. Writers can share their original work with the audience – poems, short stories, essays, segments of larger work, the spoken word, or more. Poetry, fiction or non-fiction, read or recited, word. is meant to celebrate the writer’s art and help local writers find their voice. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum Presenting Writers Event
Input Sought: Notable People with Ties to Cayuga County
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, is working on a new exhibit set to open in February 2015.
Local Links: Notable People with Cayuga Connections will celebrate the lives and works of people from two different groups – those who grew up here and achieved fame and fortune elsewhere, or those who were famous and had a close connection to Cayuga County. [Read more…] about Input Sought: Notable People with Ties to Cayuga County
Cayuga Museum Opens Iroquois Art Exhibit
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, NY has opened its newest exhibit, A Living Legacy: Arts of the Haudenosaunee, which features original art from more than a dozen artists from the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Among those exhibiting are Tom Huff, Trevor Brant, Eric Gansworth, Richard Glazer-Danay, Alex Hamer, Debra Hoag, G. Peter Jemison, Luis Lee, Penny Minner, Terrill Hooper O’Brien, Erwin Printup, and Marla Skye, and more. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum Opens Iroquois Art Exhibit
Cayuga Museum to Open World War II Exhibit Friday
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, NY will host an opening reception for its major new WWII exhibit on Friday, May 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Auburn at Normandy: the 299th Combat Engineers and Local Stories of WWII tells the story of a large group of Auburn men who served together throughout World War II in the storied 299th Combat Engineer Battalion. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum to Open World War II Exhibit Friday
Cayuga Museum Seeks Objects From Auburn’s Theater History
The Cayuga Museum is working on a new exhibit to open next month. From Gilded Stage to Silver Screen, A History of Auburn’s Theaters will tell the stories of the operas, playhouses, community theaters, parlor shows and movie palaces that once graced the city.
Museum staff are seeking the public’s help in gathering photographs, costumes, playbills, and anything else that can help tell these stories. If you have any of these objects, or you were involved in local theater and would like to share your story, please call Kirsten or Eileen at the Museum, 315 253-8051. All loaned objects are logged in, covered by the Museum’s insurance, and returned at the end of the exhibit. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum Seeks Objects From Auburn’s Theater History
Cayuga Museum Returns Iroquois Sacred Objects
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art, in Auburn, New York, has announced the return of 21 objects of spiritual significance to the custody of the Onondaga Nation. Nineteen masks and two wampum articles associated with burials were transferred from the Museum collection to the Onondaga Nation.
The 1990 Federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) mandates that federally funded museums return Native American “cultural items” to the lineal descendants or culturally-affiliated groups of the people who created them. The cultural objects covered include human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum Returns Iroquois Sacred Objects
Cayuga Museum Opens Historic Maps Exhibit
The Cayuga Museum of History and Art has opened their main fall exhibit You Are Here! Putting Auburn on the Map. The exhibit, which explores the variety and history of maps, and how they are made and read, was inspired by maps held in the Museum, mostly in the General John S. Clark collection. [Read more…] about Cayuga Museum Opens Historic Maps Exhibit
Thomas Mott Osborne Film Premiere Theater Mack
Who is Thomas Mott Osborne? And what is The Castle? These questions will be answered at the Auburn, NY premiere of a new documentary about Thomas Mott Osborne on Sunday, October 14 at 2:00 p.m. at Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum. Filmmaker Neil Novello and Osborne biographer, David Connelly, will discuss the film after the screening. This program is free and open to the public.
Thomas Mott Osborne’s statue stands in front of the Auburn, NY Police and Fire Departments. The Castle refers to the 105 year-old Portsmouth Naval prison that stands empty on a bluff in the Piscataqua River separating Maine and New Hampshire adjacent to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. But what do these two (Osborne & The Castle) have in common?
It is written in the Navy’s history of the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle that Thomas Mott Osborne “introduced a new era and a new viewpoint to the Naval prison.” From 1917 to 1921, Auburn prison reformer and resident, Thomas Mott Osborne, was the only civilian commander of the Naval Prison. Osborne hadn’t served in the Navy.
“Osborne is either a nut or a visionary,” says Pulitzer Prize winner and Auburn resident, David Connelly, who worked with Award-winning filmmaker Neil Novello from Maine on what is the only video documentary ever made about the Auburn industrialist turned humanitarian in the early 20th Century. The always-controversial Thomas Mott Osborne brought scandal, prison reform and a movie crew to the Portsmouth Naval Prison aka The Castle. ”Osborne’s command of the Naval Prison just maybe the culmination of Osborne’s prison reform career,” says Mr. Novello who started on this documentary five years ago.
Novello’s filmmaking journey started with his visit to the Syracuse University’s Bird Library to do research on Osborne. He went through box after box of Osborne’s history at the Naval Prison, which provided many great photos, newspaper articles, as well as Osborne’s writings. It was the Bird Library librarian who told Novello about Osborne biographer, David Connelly.
In the course of a year, David Connelly generously gave of his research time and family time to be a part of this documentary. Connelly knew Frederik (Erik) Osborne, TMO’s grandson, who had the remaining two reels of the Osborne-produced propaganda prison silent feature movie. “The Right Way” was filmed at the Naval Prison using prisoners as extras.
The other important person who gave generously of her time to Novello was Eileen McHugh, Director of the Cayuga Museum of Art and History. The Museum had a copy of Osborne in a 1926 experimental sound movie filmed at the Case Laboratories in Auburn where Osborne mentions the Portsmouth Naval Prison and talks about his reform ideas.
McHugh provided Mr. Novello an area in the basement of the museum to videotape David Connelly’s interview and McHugh also secured, via the Cayuga Museum’s archive, photos of early Auburn as well as Osborne and his family.
To understand Commander Osborne’s Naval prison experience, Novello needed to include Osborne’s family and his work at Auburn and Sing Sing state prisons in New York where he disguised himself as a prisoner to find out what life was like inside. When Osborne went to the Naval Prison, he disguised himself as a prisoner for a report to the Secretary of the Navy. While Commander of the Naval Prison, again Osborne disguised himself as a sailor and was a coal shoveler on the USS North Dakota as a way to understand Navy life.
Osborne became known for his Mutual Welfare League system where prisoners manage prisoners. The Mutual Welfare League was used at Auburn State prison and in Sing Sing state prison as well as the Naval prison.
With the additional photos provided by Ossining Historical Society in New York, and movie film (of Naval sea exercises and World War One) provided by the National Archive, Novello had the visual ingredients for his documentary about Osborne’s experience at the Naval Prison which in a way, culminates his prison reform career.
“It’s all about Osborne’s perspective and his thinking”, says Novello. “I did not want to make a run-of- the-mill, academic-type documentary with pros and cons. It’s about Osborne but told through his letters, film and David Connelly’s wonderful interview.”
Novello wanted to première TMO@The Castle in Auburn at the Cayuga Museum of Art and History’s newly restored Theater Mack. “It’s most fitting to show my documentary right here,” says Novello.
Novello has also produced a DVD called, The Castle: Stories of the Portsmouth Naval Prison which includes TMO@The Castle and a commentary to go with the remaining reels of Osborne’s feature movie, The Right Way.
Auburn Prison, Gillette Case Documentary, Lecture
A North Woods Elegy: Incident at Big Moose Lake is a documentary feature film that explores one of the most famous American murder cases. Grace Brown, a pregnant young woman from upstate New York, was killed in the Adirondacks on July 11, 1906 [watch the trailer].
Her lover, Chester Gillette, was eventually tried and convicted of her murder. Gillette died in the Auburn Prison electric chair on March 30, 1908. The case became the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy.
A North Woods Elegy explores the fascination America had, and still has, with the case, encompassing issues of class, jurisprudence in America at the turn of the 20th century and ethics and sensationalism in news reporting.
The documentary film will be shown in Theater Mack at the Cayuga Museum, twice on Saturday, September 15, at 1:00 pm. and again at 4:00,. Derek Taylor, the film’s producer, director and editor, will answer questions after each screening.
At 3:00 p.m., there will be a lecture on “Gillette in Auburn” by Tompkins County Judge Jack Sherman, editor of The Prison Diaries and Letters of Chester Gillette. Gillette spent more than a year in Auburn Prison before his execution; his diary from that time is today in the collection of Hamilton College. Both the film screenings and the lecture are free and open to the public.
Cayuga Museum Opens Newly-Renovated Theater Mack
The Cayuga Museum has announced that Theater Mack, the carriage house undergoing renovation for the past several years, has reopened. A massive brick building originally constructed around 1850 on the foundation of an earlier wooden barn, the carriage house was turned into a theater in 1941 through a collaboration between the Cayuga Museum and the Auburn Community Players.
Once known as the Museum Playhouse, the building became the cultural hub of Auburn from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. The building gradually fell into disuse after the Auburn Children’s Theater, the company that became the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, outgrew the space in the 1970’s.
The in mid-1990’s, the Board of Trustees of the Cayuga Museum set an ambitious goal of restoring each of the three buildings on the Museum property. The Museum has been steadily working on that goal ever since. Before beginning on the carriage house, the Museum completed more than $1.2 million in capital improvements on the other buildings. The Case Research Laboratory, birthplace of talking films, was restored and re-opened, and the Willard-Case Mansion in which the Museum is housed was renovated. The first phase of the carriage house project was finished in May 2010, at a cost of more than $248,000.
In 2011, the Museum named the carriage house Theater Mack in honor of long-time supporters the Maciulewicz family and their company, Mack Studios. Now, the Museum brings the project to fruition and the building returns to use as a multi-purpose space equipped for everything from a musical production to a wedding reception.
Theater Mack is a perfect little “jewel box” of a theater, retaining much of the charm of its 19th century beginnings and adding modern amenities. There is now heat, air-conditioning, restrooms, dressing rooms, and a catering kitchen, as well as a first-class sound system, and theater lights and draperies. The lower level and the main floor have been completely renovated but the second floor, where Theodore Case created a sound studio to make his test films in the 1920’s, remains intact. The Museum now turns its attention to plans for a new Case exhibit including both the laboratory and the sound studio.
It’s taken the same kind of collaboration that originally put the theater in the building during WWII to bring the project to fruition today. New York State, local foundations and many individuals and families donated more than $600,000 to the project. Several local contractors contributed their work at or below cost. The completion and re-opening of Theater Mack is a triumph for everyone involved. This totally unique building will become an asset to the Museum and the community for decades to come.
The new Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival has rented Theater Mack for ten weeks this summer for their concept show, The Pitch. The Cayuga Museum is already programming film screenings, lectures and shows for Theater Mack for the rest of the year and it is available for rent to organizations and individuals.