Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York
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Canton, NY 13617
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Personal Collection Series


Personal Collections Series

In 2017 at the TAUNY Center, we will showcase personal collections from individuals around our region. Each collection has a special connection to the North Country; most of the items were originally produced or utilized here. These collections represent the diversity of interests in our region along with the deep-rooted history of folk culture over the past century or more. Each item holds intrinsic value for these collectors and their families, and we at TAUNY are deeply grateful to be able to display these items for the benefit of the public.

The Personal Collections series is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts, Folk Arts Program, with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.



Current Personal Collection Series Exhibits

Personal Collection Series:

Cookie Cutters from the Collection of the Miller Family

December 2- December 30, 2017

From the cutting board they’re rolled out on to the decorations that make them sparkle, the Miller family sugar cookies have family tradition baked right into them. John Miller III of DeKalb Junction, along with his two sisters, Holly and Lynn, grew up making and decorating sugar cookies every holiday season with their mother “Tyke” Miller. In fact, Tyke, a former Home Economics major, baked and cooked all kinds of things for the family, including bread each week. And then over a few big days each season, the family would bake, cool, frost, and decorate dozens and dozens of sugar cookies, among other varieties, both to keep at home and to share with others as gifts. Though she enjoyed plenty of other cookbooks and collected recipes as well, Tyke’s go-to was the Betty Crocker Cookbook, which she got brand-new in 1952, the year of her marriage. And as John says, “Mom made just about every single cookie in that book.” John and his sisters helped out with plenty of those, and the sugar cookies stand out for more than their crystalline sparkle. As for key ingredients in this family baking tradition, at the heart of it are the wonderful, varied cookie cutters their mother collected throughout her life.


Tyke had always loved cookie cutters, collecting sets and individuals herself over the years as well as having many that had come down to her from various sides of the family. These include plenty of the usual holiday shapes, but there are also all kinds of other shapes and themes— from animals to musical instruments to patriotic sets for presidents’ birthdays. Since family and friends knew Tyke loved them, they added many more cookie cutters to her collection over the years. John himself made several, starting with the shape of the family Volkswagen Beetle in junior high metal shop, and later an artist’s palette, made from a soup can. The collection ranges from late 19th century pieces to the present day, including ones made out of aluminum, tin, copper, and plastic. Earlier cookie cutters tend to have solid backs and handles, while the more recent are usually open shapes. The family especially likes the sharper, thinner tin ones, which cut the dough better. Some cookie cutters aren’t much use for cutting at all, having too intricate curls and crevices to get the dough out of. But the family would make good use of those as well, hanging them up as decorations. All in all, the collection includes over 500 cookie cutters of all varieties.

With baking and cooking coming down through the generations, the family’s creativity goes beyond cookie cutters as well. Before a wide variety of colored sugars were available, they’d make their own by mixing sugar with food coloring and giving it a week to get dry enough to use. One year, for their family Christmas card, they made a whole recipe book full of cookie recipes and stories. Meanwhile, they’d be rolling out their cookies on their great-grandmother’s homemade cutting board with rolling pins their father crafted. And while John’s parents have now passed away, he and his sisters keep their family cookie tradition going strong, rolling out cookies on that same beloved board, and gathering together in the old farmhouse where John still lives to bake and decorate each holiday season.

You’re invited too! Drop in any time 3-5pm on Thursday, December 14 to join the Miller Family in The TAUNY Center kitchen for a special session of drop-in sugar cookie making and decorating.


Past Personal Collection Series Exhibits

Personal Collection Series:  

Fiddles from Rick Streeter of the Adirondack Playboys Band

August 26, 2017 - October 7, 2017


Personal Collection Series:

Guideboat Paddles and More from the Collection of Ted Comstock, Saranac Lake

July 8, 2017 - August 19, 2017

Personal Collection Series: Antique Tools from the Backus Family Collection

May 13, 2017 - June 24, 2017

Personal Collection Series: Judy Rexford's Buttons

March 11, 2017 - April 29, 2017


Personal Collection Series: Jerry Lincoln's Decoys

January 14, 2017 - February 25, 2017

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