"Look Down, You'll See Our Tracks":
Raquette River Dam Stories
June 10, 2017 - October 2017
From 2014 to 2016, TAUNY partnered with the Raquette River Blueway Corridor Group, the Village of Potsdam, and Watertown PBS to document the stories of people involved in or significantly affected by the construction of the hydroelectric dams and powerhouses along the Raquette River, one of the most heavily dammed rivers in New York State. This oral history project was made possible by the support of the New York Department of State with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund. Interviews were conducted primarily by Camilla Ammirati, Director of Programs and Research at TAUNY in Canton, NY, and Mary Jane Watson of South Colton, NY, in cooperation with Roque Murray of Watertown PBS. The project recorded thirty interviews with thirty-one individuals with significant connections to and/or memories of the Raquette River hydro projects, about fifteen of which were included in a separate Watertown PBS documentary project (aired spring 2016). In addition to interviews, we collected approximately five hundred photos and other scanned memorabilia items from the interviewees and approximately 3700 additional photos representing the history of the Raquette River more generally, and the life of the communities along its shores.
For this project, we aimed to present as many perspectives as possible on the history of the Raquette River hydro dam development projects. Interviewees represent a range of different occupations, geographical locations, time periods, and types of relationship to the dam projects. The majority of interviewees worked on the dams or powerhouses and/or for the power companies, such as Niagara Mohawk and Brookfield Renewable Energy, which have run the hydro projects over the years. Occupations or activities documented include logging, clearing land, construction management, crane operation, security, pipeline maintenance, concrete-testing, truck-driving, engineering, representing citizen concerns, and “running the river,” or managing the hydroelectric assets on the Raquette. We spoke to some who were involved at the beginning of the major development in the Colton area in the 1950s, some primarily involved in later re-building projects in the 1980s, and some whose work on the river or in their related careers has continued until relatively recently, thus bringing a more contemporary perspective to the project. We also interviewed people who did not do work connected to the dams but could share recollections of ways in which the dam projects affected their communities and their own personal lives. These include individuals whose families lost or gained land due to the dam projects, operated businesses affected for better or worse by the boom in development, owned camps that were lost or had to be moved because of the project, or generally remembered changes to community life and to the river itself, as well as what it was like simply to witness the construction projects themselves.
The exhibit, opening on June 10, 2017, will share the stories and perspectives of those we interviewed as well as the broader story of how the river itself and life along its banks have been shaped by the hydroelectric dam projects. The exhibit will include:
- Thematic panels representing different topics and types of experience related to the dams, such as: occupations/work/worksite experiences on the river, tall tales of the trades, landmarks lost and gained, winter on the river, arts and crafts related to river work or local community life during the building of the dams, and environmental and economic impact.
- Recent and historic images.
- Audio samples from oral history interviews.
- Video samples from oral history interviews as well as historic video footage.
- Objects pertaining to the dams and/or related experience of interview subjects.
Listen to Raquette River Dams audio files here.
The exhibit will be on display through October 2017.
Photos: (Top) Edson Martin navigates a D-7 tractor across the Raquette at Parameter Ford, 1952. Courtesy of Arnold Wright.
(Middle) Rainbow Dam, 2015
(Bottom) Work on the penstock during the 1950s dam construction. The penstock is a large pipe that regulates flow and brings water to the turbine. Photo by Niagara Mohawk. Courtesy of Mary Jane Watson.
Funding provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Raquette River Fund supported by the Raquette River Advisory Council, Colton Historical Society-Sunday Rock Legacy Project, Raquette River Blueway Corridor, and Donaldson Funeral Home and Donaldson-Seymour Funeral Home.
Additional support provided by APC Paper and Potsdam Specialty Paper, Inc.
Folkstore Artist Spotlight
September 14, 2017-October 28, 2017
TAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, presents an exhibit of colorful paintings based on the rural North Country landscape in its latest exhibit, “Folkstore Artist Spotlight: Ola Aldous,” currently on view at The TAUNY Center. Ola Aldous, a North Country transplant from the Soviet Union, finds her inspiration for her oil paintings at her husband’s family farm in DeKalb, NY where she lives and works. In her work, which she calls “observational painting,” she creates improvisations based on her environment and the beautiful landscape of the farm. Drawing inspiration from the colors of everything on the farm, she seeks to express in her work the vibrant colors she sees around her. The paintings in the exhibit are for sale and will be on display through October 28, 2017. The Folkstore Artist Spotlight series highlights the work of regional artists and artisans and allows TAUNY to present a greater range of work by these local producers.
Personal Collection Series
Personal Collection Series:
Fiddles from Rick Streeter of
the Adirondack Playboys Band
August 26, 2017 - October 7, 2017
Our current Personal Collection Series exhibit features fiddles from the collection of Rick Streeter, the fiddler in The Adirondack Playboys Band, one of TAUNY’s 2016 North Country Heritage Award recipients. The Adirondack Playboys (also known as the Streeter Family Band) are a multi-generational square dance band based around Lewis County, particularly Beaver Falls and Croghan. Rick Streeter is an experienced fiddler and learned to play fiddle from his dad, Ralph, who was the original fiddler in the band. Ralph collected fiddles for many years, buying them in garage sales and antique shops throughout the region. After Ralph’s passing, Rick inherited the collection of over 60 fiddles and has continued collecting ever since then. He even started making his own fiddles around 1989. The red and black fiddle that Rick now plays was part of his dad’s original collection, though he stripped and refinished it to his liking. The fiddles, now numbering over seventy, hang all over the walls of his home - quite a sight to be seen.
This exhibit is made possible by the generous support of the Cloudsplitter Foundation.
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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