Traditional Arts in Upstate New York. Traditional Arts of Upstate New York
53 Main Street
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.

Personal Collection Series:

Antique Tools from the Backus Family Collection
May 13, 2017 - June 24, 2017

For the next installment of TAUNY’s Personal Collection Series, Jack and JoAnne Backus of Ogdensburg will share selections from their expansive collection of hand tools used around the North Country at the TAUNY Center from May 13 to June 24, 2017.

Lighting, shoemaking, farming, building, textile making, and more; the Backus family collects tools for every trade, purpose and season. The items in the collection date back to a time before mechanization was the norm for getting a job done. A special focus of the display will be tools that were home-made, presumably by the user, and often making clever use of readily available materials. In some cases, items show patterns of wear and patching to extend the life of the tool.

As a hard-working North Country family, the Backuses find great value in the work performed around the region. Jack and JoAnne have been married for over 40 years and share a  passion for conserving North Country traditions. They officially began collecting around 2002 when they bought an old barn that happened to be filled with interesting old tools. Since then, they have acquired their collection from friends and family, auctions and antique stores. In addition to tools, they also collect photographs of people at work and locally manufactured products like stoneware and woodwork. Jack said they are “trying to keep our part of the world here” because there are such talented people creating things in the North Country region.

This exhibit is made possible with underwriting support from Heritage Homes, Inc. 

Upcoming Personal Collection Series Exhibits

Personal Collection Series:

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

July 8-2017 - August 19, 2017

Ted Comstock, Saranac Lake, NY,  has been interested in the Adirondack region for most of his life.  He was a curator at the (then named) Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY,  in the 1970s. Ted is a lifelong student of the region’s history, artifacts, and publications.  He established and operated Wildwood Enterprises in Old Forge, NY,  from 1979-1991, a shop where he specialized in regional books, prints, paintings, early photographs, vintage wooden boats, and antiques.


Ted has a great respect for finely crafted items, especially ones that are functional and designed in response to the specific circumstances in which they will be used.  At the top of Ted’s list is the Adirondack guideboat: “It was designed by a topographical imperative -- all those water highways -- a remarkably efficient tool.  Today, it is known around the world. These boats perfectly answered the question of how to navigate on and between Adirondack waters; and they are so much fun to row.”


For this display,  Ted will exhibit a collection of full-size vintage guideboat and canoe paddles made in the Adirondacks at different times and places, and related items, such as a souvenir paddle blank from Parsons Brothers in Old Forge.  The display will also feature supporting illustrative materials.  “We live in a plastic world.  There is so much pressure to forget about heritage and history.  People need to remember how remarkable North Country craftsmen were, and are.  At the core of our region’s past are those designers and builders of wooden rowing and paddling craft.”

Personal Collection Series:

Fiddles from Rick Streeter of the Adirondack Playboys Band

August 26, 2017 - October 7, 2017


Past Personal Collection Series Exhibits



Judy Rexford's Buttons

March 11, 2017 - April 29, 2017

Fruits and vegetables, stars and charms, famous women and world religions… Believe it or not, there’s a button for everything! From March 11th to April 29th, Judy Rexford shares her mother Iris’s buttons with TAUNY for the next exhibit in our 2017 Personal Collections series.

In 1963, Iris Rexford became a member of the North Country Button Club, which her friend Ruth Crandall of Colton had started a few years earlier. The Club, which was active from the 1960s through the 1990s, included members hailing from various places from Colton, NY to Cornwall, ON, Canada, and the club members also took part in the New York State and National Button Societies. The North Country group met regularly to show their findings around monthly program themes focusing on different button types, themes, and materials. The club members did everything from saving buttons off their own clothing to trading, buying, and hunting down treasures at area auctions and flea markets, and their collections included a range of beautiful and unusual materials and imagery—from dainty pearl to military brass, from flower and maple shapes to maps of New York State. Members would also craft with the buttons, mounting them artfully and including them in jewelry, as well as trading birthday cards with special buttons affixed as gifts. While the North Country Button Club hasn’t met in recent years, state and national groups continue to be active. Meanwhile, Judy and others in the community continue to preserve the button collections started by their family members and share the stories those buttons represent.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Five Elements Living.

Jerry Lincoln's Decoys

January 14, 2017 - February 25, 2017

Our first exhibit is a decoy collection from Jerry Lincoln of Ogdensburg, NY. The exhibit will run from January 7 through the end of February. Decoys are wooden - and sometimes plastic -  birds, usually ducks, used to attract birds when hunting. Decoys have been made in the North Country since approximately 1870, and many of the best examples are from between 1920 and 1960 for various economic and political reasons. While up until approximately 1970, in our region, these birds were carved out of wood by hand, nowadays hunters use plastic decoys that weigh and cost less and have more life-like features. The art of the decoy is not lost, though, as many collectors and makers continue to make extravagant wooden birds for show, some of which are valued above and beyond $10,000.

There are many notable makers represented in Jerry’s collection, primarily from the Ogdensburg and Alexandria Bay regions, including Frankie Louis, Rosh Douglas, Bob and Bill Massey, and Bill and Dick Hollis. Jerry’s full collection includes over 130 birds and is tastefully displayed throughout his home. As an avid duck hunter, he began collecting decoys over 30 years ago, finding them at garage sales or lost and forgotten in attics and basements while working in his pest control business. He continues to interact with many local decoy makers and collectors and regularly attends the decoy convention in Alexandria Bay in July. Jerry especially values the family connections behind each of these birds, and he has a personal story about nearly every single decoy in his collection.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Hilltop Hunting & Fishing Supply.



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.

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