The Icebox

A little video showing the icebox in our John Hanford farmhouse.  The ice you see in the film was harvested from our pond on about four days ago.  Considering the extremely cold weather we’ve had over the weekend, we can only assume the ice is even thicker now.


“The Hanford Photographs” Exhibit – In Progress

Anna Wightman's Sunday School Class, taken by Horace Hanford near millpond in East Meredith, c.1895. Fred Hanford is in the back row on the left.

Some information in this post is taken from the Hanford Mills Museum-produced book, The Hanford Photographs, with essays by Timothy Weidner.  The book is available for sale in our Museum Shop.

2011 is shaping up to be the Year of Photography for Hanford Mills Museum.  Along with the exhibition of photos taken by school students in CROP programs across Otsego & Delaware Counties, we are also working diligently on a new photography show for our long-neglected Feed Mill exhibit space.  The Hanford Photographs will highlight approximately 50 historic photographs from our collection, spanning 40 years of East Meredith and Hanford family history as recorded by Horace Hanford and his son Ralph.  It will also include a selection of other objects from our collection, including an antique 8×10 view camera that closely matches the kind that Horace used to take some of his photos during the late 19th century.

Horace Hanford didn’t just take a passing interest in the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution; he embraced and reveled in them.  He (and his father D.J. before him) subscribed to Scientific American magazine, the seminal publication for all things engineering and science-related, from 1860 to the 1920s.  As time went on Horace’s interests included electricity, photography, bicycles, automobiles, and of course, mill machinery.  In 1894 Horace and his brother Willis joined the sawmill and gristmill business that their father D.J. started nearly 35 years earlier.  They oversaw the mill’s business during the period that brought the most growth and lasting change to the town of East Meredith. 

The Ulster & Delaware Railroad finally completed an extension of their Kingston-Oneonta line to East Meredith in 1900.  The train literally stopped behind the mill, greatly increasing the amount of trade the Hanfords and other townspeople could do, and allowing for an important change in the way dairy farmers could ship their product.  Horace’s photography hobby allowed him to record the evolution that was occurring at the mill and in his town during this radical time.

Currently, the plan is to separate The Hanford Photographs exhibit into three main themes:

  • Mill and town change over time
  • Life and work
  • People & property

These themes best represent the types of photographs Horace and Ralph took with their cameras.  Horace was especially interested in capturing the changes that occurred at the mill, including the delivery of the new steam boiler and the erecting of the boiler stack in 1895.  A wonderful series of photographs, taken between 1890 and 1910, shows the mill from the vantage point of the surrounding hillsides as new buildings were constructed and old ones were removed.  Horace also donated his photography skills to the town by taking class photos for the local Sunday School and documenting the construction of the new Presbyterian church, among other things.  He even captured fun local events, including a presentation of dancing bears at the Rexmere Hotel in Stamford in 1915.

Many of the photographs in the exhibit will be presented in a larger format than they’ve ever been presented before (they have rarely been shown larger than 5 x 7” or 6 ½ x 8 ½”, the sizes of the original glass plate negatives Horace used), some of them up to 13 x 19” or larger.  This will reveal details in the pictures that might have been missed in their smaller formats.  The Hanford Photographs exhibit is scheduled to be finished on May 15th, the first day of the Museum’s regular season, with a special Member Preview before that date.  Stay tuned to our blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, and our website for more info as we continue to work on the exhibit.

Ice Measurement, Dec. 15th

Unfortunately our little Flip video camera didn’t like the extreme cold this morning (or the fact that I dropped it in the snow before filming this!), so there was not enough battery life to talk about everything we wanted to discuss.  So here’s some more info about the video:

  • Why shovel the pond?  Every time it snows we must shovel it off of areas of the pond we want to harvest or have activities on, because the snow acts as an insulator that will melt the top layer of ice and create a slushy mess that makes the surface very rough, and also limits the overall thickness of the ice.  In the past teams of oxen or a tractor would help with this plowing process.  We do it with snow shovels.  It’s good exercise.
  • Why is so much of the pond cleared off?  In 2011, we’re having a new activity on the pond: the SUNY Oneonta ice hockey team will be doing demonstrations and helping visitors shoot pucks in a net they’re bringing.  We need a separate area, about the size of a tennis court, cleared for their activity.
  • How much ice thickness do you need to stand on the pond?  At minimum, 2-3 inches of ice is needed to safely walk on a frozen pond.  We have 4 inches, so the ice is more than strong enough.  The strength of the ice increases exponentially with every inch that’s added to the pond.  At about 7 or 8 inches you could safely drive a car onto the pond, and by the time you reach 12 inches you could walk an 8-ton elephant on the pond.  If anyone has an elephant you would like to bring to Ice Harvest on Feb. 5th, by all means!

Ice Check #2

What a difference two days of ridiculously cold weather can make!

Mill Pond Ice Check

Yep, a little too early in the season for this.  So far all we have is a healthy crop of slush.  It’s been cold recently but the constant wind keeps the surface from freezing properly:

CROP Photo Project Update

One of our museum’s projects for 2011 (and beyond) that we are very excited about is our collaboration with the Otsego Northern Catskills Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ (ONC BOCES) Creating Rural Opportunities Partnership program (CROP).  Along with creating wonderful acronyms, the BOCES CROP program provides after-school opportunities for students by partnering with dedicated community organizations, including the Roxbury Arts Group, Learning for Life, the LEAF Council on Alcoholism and Addictions, and more.

For the next three years Hanford Mills Museum will be working with CROP students in grade levels 5-8, in a photography project we’re calling Our Hometown.  The students will use disposable 35mm cameras to record their lives in the town they live in.  The idea is simple: students are asked to photograph the people, places, and activities that are important to their sense of home and are integral to the lives of the townspeople.  This can include historic buildings, important & familiar people, activities at school and home, popular gathering places, special events, common jobs and workplaces, and much more.  The students are not restricted in what they can photograph, so long as they are making these kinds of considerations.

Each student will receive three cameras over the course of the school year to take their pictures.  After each round of cameras is processed, museum educator and photographer Kevin Gray meets with the students to do a critique of the pictures.  They discuss the artistic quality of the pictures including composition, color, and content, as well as the meaning of the pictures and why particular objects and activities were photographed.  With this information and some new photography tips under their belts, the students then go out with  a brand new camera to record some more.  In the spring, the students will be asked to look through the many pictures they have taken and select three that will be framed and exhibited at Hanford Mills Museum during the summer.  These three photos should be the best choices to tell the story of the students’ hometown that they want to tell.  The students will also be asked to write a short essay explaining their selections, what the photographs depict, and what they learned about their town while doing the project.

Hanford Mills Museum will be working with four schools each year for the next three years as part of this project.  During the 2010-2011 school year we are working with Andes, South Kortright, Milford, and Edmeston Central schools.  Six to twelve students in each school have decided to take part in the project, and so far many of their photographs have been very interesting.   At the top of this post are two examples: Laurynn Weaver’s picture of Andes Central School on the left, and Alyssa Grocott’s image of her parents’ Edmeston farm on the right.  Again, these may not be the images that these girls choose for the final exhibit, but they do represent very well the kinds of pictures we hope to see at Hanford Mills Museum next summer.  We feel that this exhibit will be a wonderful complement to our own Hanford family photography exhibit we will present next year (more on that soon!)  Stay tuned for more updates, including a link to a Flickr page of many of the photographs!

Vlog #1: Installing the new handicap accessible ramp