Tess Christiansen ’14 has completed an exhibit for the Oneida County Historical Society as an Upstate Institute Field School Fellow this summer. Her exhibit, which will open in late August and will be on display for the next several months, focuses on Utica at the time of the society’s founding in 1876. Oneida County was greatly influenced by its long military history and the society’s many objects from the Civil War served as a basis for its first collection. Tess’ exhibit presents this history in conjunction with an overview of life in Utica at the time. It looks at the impact of the Erie Canal in bringing industries and people to the region, Utica as a textile capital, and forms of public entertainment such as miniature railroads, bowling, and dance pavilions.
The Oneida County Historical Society is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Oneida County. They involve the public in this history through a research library, exhibits, and presentations on topics of local interest. In addition to creating the exhibit, Tess worked with the society on the digitization of some of their records. The experience taught her a great deal about the challenges of running a small museum and the value of dedicated volunteers. She learned about conducting research using historic documents, and about using technology as a means of historic preservation.
Tess applied to be a Fellow because she was interested in gaining experience in the museum field, and to give herself an opportunity to study the Upstate region in greater depth. Through the experience, she found that community-based partnerships provide students with valuable research skills while fostering relationships that encourage them to work together with new people.