The Book That Became a Museum
Deconstructing Township 34
A Start Is Not Always a Beginning
The Museum’s First Two Directors
Small Worlds, Big Water
My First Summer
Harold and After
Whose History Is It?
Also by Craig Gilborn:
Durant: The Fortunes and Camps of a Family in the Adirondacks (The Adirondack Museum, 1981).
Adirondack Camps: Homes Away from Home 1850 - 1950 (Syracuse University Press, 2000).
Whose History: A Museum Memoir
by Craig Gilborn
The Blueline Press, 2007
Softcover, 124 pages.
Send check payable to The Blueline Press,
P.O. Box 175, Danby, VT 05739. Includes postage and handling.
This book is about a particular museum, the Adirondack Museum, but it is also about the era of which the museum was a part. It is a memoir because the author’s career spanned most of an era, from the 1940s to its close, when the men and women whose wealth created dozens of museums across the U.S. in the decades after WWII died off, leaving the institutions they had founded to learn to walk on their own.
The story he tells opens with an account of the founder as a boy of twelve arriving with family and friends to the lakefront property in the Adirondacks that would be his lifetime home away from work and the city. The builder of the Adirondack Museum, Harold K. Hochschild, would die in 1981, as had the Shelburne Museum’s Electra Webb in 1960, Winterthur’s Henry Francis duPont in 1969, with Electra’s son Watson, who for many years was Shelburne’s president, being among the very last of the founding generation to succumb, in 2000.
Things go swimmingly when founders are alive and paying the bills. No one wants to ask founders about a future without them. The transition from a personal to an institutional museum was accomplished long before Mr. duPont’s death, but there were unresolved issues of income at Shelburne (where Gilborn was a trustee) and of governance and mission at the Adirondack Museum. Whose History calls attention to a condition without prescribing a remedy, which makes it, according to Gilborn, a cautionary tale.