"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.
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
Folkstore Artist Spotlight:
New Work from the Swartzentruber Amish Community
June 24, 2017-August 19, 2017
TAUNY presents the next Folkstore Artist Spotlight, “New Work From the Swartzentruber Amish Community,” opening to the public on Saturday, June 24th at The TAUNY Center. This new Folkstore Artist Spotlight will feature a variety of handcrafted items from several local Amish families including textiles, baskets, furniture, and more. Visitors are invited to see this exhibit through August 19, 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:
Guideboat Paddles and More from the Collection of Ted Comstock, Saranac LakeJuly 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.”
This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Guide Boat Realty, LLC.
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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