2020 was a challenging year, but there was something reassuring about the museum that was so important in navigating the season and its unknowns. Like all other years, the animals needed feeding, the grounds needed caring for and without a hitch, the baby lambs and calves were born regardless of the world’s circumstances. While the early part of 2020 meant our doors were closed to the public, we opened on July 1 and refashioned the museum as an outdoor, park-like setting where visitors could enjoy the grounds with friends and family safely. Many expressed gratitude for our staff’s diligence and the museums’ commitment to the community by being open.
Our talented and dedicated staff created a wide array of virtual programs from Distance Learning programs to book readings, artistic performances, and virtual tours of exhibitions. Our signature special events were cancelled this year, including fan favorites such as, the Junior Livestock Show, Hopsego, Harvest Festival, Thanksgiving at the Farm, Tractor Fest, and Candlelight Evening, but were replaced with smaller events that stretched out over a few weekends such as Celebration of Autumn which was held from mid-September to mid-October, and greatly boosted fall attendance. Staff also created and ran small group tours such as Things That Go Bump in the Night and Holiday Lantern Tours. Online exhibitions included Samuel Nelson and the Dred Scott Decision and the 1918 Influenza Epidemic. One of our staff’s most important accomplishments has been the creation of a whole new menu of online content, all of which is now featured under a special tab on the museum’s website, under the heading “Virtual Farm.” This content is growing daily and will serve the museum well for years to come.
Even after opening to the public, we continued managing staff volume in office spaces to ensure they also remained safe. Historical interpreters performed their crafts in an outdoor setting instead of in their small historic buildings. The Blacksmith Shop was moved with a portable forge onto the Tavern Green. The weaver moved outside the Dimmick House, and the Lippitt House interpreters were moved to a more open and better ventilated Brooks Barn. The spaciousness of the Main Barn allowed the interpretation team to be more readily on-hand. For example, the Broom Maker, typically set up in the Wescott Shop, was instead placed at the south end of the Barn greeting visitors as they entered the museum. The smaller Liberty Press from the Print Shop was moved into the Milking Parlor in the very front of the Main Barn, near the Cardiff Giant. An interpreter from the Pharmacy was in place, all allowing for an enhanced interpreter-visitor interaction upon entrance.
Education staff was forced to rethink many performances and workshops. The standard summer noontime, one-act-play comedies was retooled as a one-man show with Manager of Performing Arts performing live every Saturday where he presented classical fairy tales from Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, among others. Our annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was presented as a full cast audio book production of the play with a cast of over thirty actors. In-person workshops for adults and children quickly became virtual and this meant we were doing our part in keeping those at home learning and busy.
Our beloved Preschool Tuesday program also switched to a virtual format keeping our younger visitors entertained and educated. Some of our programs included Baby Animals; Hatching
Chicks; Farm Birds; Muddy Pigs; Bugs, Butterflies, and Worms; and Squirrels and Storage. All previously recorded Preschool Tuesday programs were also made available on TFM’s web page for additional content. The closure of schools in March, inspired our Distance Learning Program which quickly developed and included The Farmers’ Museum Highlight Tour; Simple Machines; Tradesman’s Tool Chest; The Math and Art of Quilting; The Empire State Carousel: Another Way to Learn New York History; and Historical Transportation in New York: Toll Roads, Canals, and Railroads. Each program includes lesson plans for teachers and for the class itself, as well as activities and instructions for parents in the event schools close again and students are forced to learn remotely. These programs will be available on TFM’s Harvest of History website.
Our Museum collection continues growing in numbers and relevance, especially the Plowline: Images of Rural New York collecting initiative. This collection of photography of rural New York, generously supported by the Gipson Family, now has more than 17,000 images and is considered one of the most important of its kind. Our collection has come from a variety of sources including antique photography shows, as well as donations from local photographers, families, and collectors who share our passion for preserving our past, present, and future through images.
Although 2020 looked different than other years, we remain committed to our mission and know the future looks bright. Many thanks to our Board of Directors, all of our donors, supporters, and visitors – for making The Farmers’ Museum a magical, meaningful, safe and fun destination for all those who visit.
PAUL S. D’AMBROSIO, Ph.D.
President and CEO
The Farmers’ Museum
Cultivating an understanding of the rural heritage that has shaped our land, communities and American culture.
OFFICERS, DIRECTORS & SENIOR STAFF
Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman
J. Michael Moffat, Vice Chairman
Paul S. D’Ambrosio, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer
Joseph Siracusa, Vice President for Operations
Alexander R. Charlton, Secretary
Anthony Fasano, Treasurer
MEMBERS AND DIRECTORS
David T. Bliss
Jane Forbes Clark
Stephen M. Duff
Gates Helms Hawn
Hon. John F. Lambert
J. Michael Moffat
Kevin S. Moore
Brent Ridge, MD
Edward W. Stack
Henry F. C. Weil, MD
Jeffrey H. Pressman, MD
SENIOR MANAGEMENT TEAM
Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, President and CEO
Joseph Siracusa, Vice President for Operations
Barbara Fischer, Senior Director for Human Resources and Accounting
Todd A. Kenyon, Director of Marketing and Communications
Chris Rossi, Director of Exhibitions
John Ferguson, Director of Education