Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Presentations and Portraits

The Researching New York 2008 conference was last Thursday, so Katie and I finally had our conference debut. It was kind of a whirlwind of a day--train to Albany early in the morning, quick lunch and registration at SUNY Albany, hour and a half presentation and panel discussion, and then right back to Manhattan so Katie could make it to class that evening.

Overall, it was a very good experience, and our audience responded well to the presentation with questions and interest and compliments. Our session was on "Records of Business" and we shared the stage with a woman from the Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site who gave a presentation on 19th century ledger books from canal stores. It was striking when the moderator noted the difference in size between our collections--we began our project with over 300 boxes and her focus was on four ledger books. Of course, this meant that the scope of our presentation was much broader (not only do we have a large quantity of material, that material spans two centuries of history), while she was able to narrow in on more detail. I think it provided a nice contrast for our audience.

One of the cool things about presenting in Albany was that a curator from the New York State Museum was in attendance. Prior to the conference, we had emailed back and forth concerning the NYCC's portrait collection which was donated the NYS Museum at the same time that Columbia acquired the NYCC's paper records. Before the NYCC moved out of their home on 65 Liberty Street,

these portraits were hung in the Chamber building's Great Hall:

We didn't have time to check out the portrait collection in person while we were in Albany, but lucky for us and everyone, you can view digital images of most of the portraits online. We do have several pamphlets in our records detailing the history of the Great Hall and some of its most famous portraits.

According to a NYCC pamphlet, the hall was, "notable for its grandeur and rich detail . . . designed along lines similar to the early Guild Halls of London." Its main use was for member meetings and receptions. Because of the Chamber's many prestigious members and industry influence, many of those meetings and receptions welcomed distinguished guests, such as Edward, Prince of Wales, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Katie and I are still dying with curiosity to know what the Great Hall looks like now, especially since we know the portraits aren't there anymore. There are so many amazing historical building in New York, its frustrating that many of them aren't open to the public. Maybe one year the Chamber building will make it on the list for the openhousenewyork weekend and we can finally get a look inside.

Have a great holiday!


No comments: