What I did on my Summer Holiday – part 1 Genesee Country Village

Display cases on top of pull-out storage drawers

Display cases on top of pull-out storage drawers

Between working towards getting the museum open and caring for geriatric cats it has been 6 1/2 years since we have had a holiday. We broke that streak last week when we took a five-day car trip to Massachusetts, ultimately to attend the Sturbridge Antique Textile and Vintage Clothing sale, as well as the Brimfield Antique Show. We used to go to Brimfield all the time but the last time we were down was 1993 but more about that later.

To break our journey in two we stopped at Canandaigua New York on the way down to do a bit of antiquing, and take in Genesee Country Village and Museum. The recreated village of 19th century historic buildings also maintains a massive textile and clothing collection acquired from private collector Susan Greene, who recently authored a book on American printed textiles.

The Virginian and Ebenezer Scrooge, obscured by glare and reflections from light (we didn't use a flash)

The Virginian and Ebenezer Scrooge, obscured by glare and reflections from light (we didn’t use a flash)

Despite an oversight at the entry gate to inform us the restaurant would be closing at 2 p.m. that day (just as we stopped for lunch), we did enjoy our visit, especially to the gallery of costume. Their exhibition featured fashions from literature, with  garments that resembled what would have been worn by characters from novels such as: Pride and Prejudice, Tom Sawyer, and Sleepy Hollow. The concept and clothes on display were great (I am totally going to steal this idea), however, despite my admiration the display itself failed on technical merit.

One of the pull-out drawers featuring a man's summer jacket made from pina cloth

One of the pull-out drawers featuring a man’s 1850s summer jacket made from pina cloth

I can overlook the cases for being too narrow for full crinoline dresses, and I can’t fault the exhibition for its less than perfect mannequins because I know how hard it is to find suitable, versatile, and affordable mannequins. The real problem comes from the ill-conceived idea of making the gallery an open-storage style presentation with display cases set on top of the pull-out drawers that house the open storage artifacts. The display cases are far too high to comfortably view any garment above knee level, and most of the drawers don’t pull out sufficiently enough to view the artifacts in the back row. The worst issue caused by this arrangement is the glare created by the gallery lighting in the glass that extends all the way to the ceiling. A dark purple background inside the case makes it even more distracting by turning the glass into almost a mirror. To solve this problem the artifacts need to be lit from inside, and the backgrounds painted  a light colour to downplay the ‘glaring’ problem from gallery lighting.

Had this been a small museum that was just trying to do its best the problem could be overlooked, but the building this gallery is housed in recently underwent a 2.7 million renovation! If you can overlook the presentation, the treasures within are superb…

To be continued…

2 thoughts on “What I did on my Summer Holiday – part 1 Genesee Country Village

  1. It looks like an amazing collection. It’s interesting because the Charleston Museum has a very similar set-up with the drawers and cases, but the drawers are used only for accessories and flat textiles and they put textiles in the case above the drawers. It works especially well for embroideries and laces.

    • Most of the drawers here showcased accessories or flat textiles, only a few had garments like the man’s pina cloth coat (it was just a favourite of mine). Did you find Charleston worked better or did it share some of the problems with reflections?

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