Timeline [Image of Cohoes Mastodon]
Our history of inquiry, discovery, and education began in 1836 when we were established as the State Geological and Natural History Survey. Over the years, we have grown into a major research and an educational institution dedicated to preserving New York's rich artistic, social, historical, and environmental legacies under the leadership of the New York State Education Department.

1958: Creation of the Cultural Resource Survey Program (CRSP)
The CRSP formed in 1958 when Museum staff began doing informal surveys for other state agencies in response to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to help ensure that any archaeological or paleontological resources that stood in the way of the 40,000 miles of proposed new roads were carefully documented or salvaged. Since then, the CRSP has developed into the largest applied research program in the Museum.

CRSP's work not only assists state agencies with meeting federal regulatory requirements prior to construction, it also benefits thepeople of New York by collecting data on the history and prehistory of the state before loss through highway and other construction.

CRSP Archaelogists working in a trench at the Fort Edward site

CRSP Archaeologists working in a trench at the Fort Edward site.

1976: Museum Moves into the Cultural Education Center
Within a decade of moving into the State Education Building in 1912, the Musuem had already exhausted every possible nook and office and hallway where collections could be stored. Hope for more space was not restored until 1962 when Legislature approved the construction of a 98.5 acre governmental park proposed by Nelson Rockefeller in the heart of downtown
Albany. Included in the proposal were plans for a new Museum building.

The 11-story, 1.5 million square foot Cultural Education Center was completed in 1976 and today houses the State Museum, State Library, State Archives, Public Broadcasting, and their parent organization, the Office of Cultural Education.

Cultural Education Center

The Cultural Education Center

1977: New York: The State of Art
Held in the fall of 1977 through early 1978, the exhibit New York: The State of Art displayed over 300 works of art from museums and private collections around the country. Three major themes included: Folk Art of New York State, The Hudson River School, and the New York School.

The exhibit was significant not only for its physical breadth (it occupied more gallery space than any other single exhibit in the museum's history) but for bringing together in a single venue so many seemingly disparate artists—from anonymous 18th-century folk artists to controversial 20th-century modernists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Morris and Willem de Kooning—for the singular purpose of highlighting the wealth, import and command of the art of New York State.

View of the New York School Gallery

View of the New York School Gallery

1980s: Native Peoples Gallery
The development and intallation of Native Peoples of New York Hall spanned over ten years. Research and planning for the new exhibition space, including new life groups, began in early 1981. Five years later, in 1986, the Ice Age Landscape and its complementary Ice Age Hunters life group opened to the public. In 1988, the Forest Foragers and Three Sisters life groups made their debut. In 1992, a life-size reconstruction of a section of a Mohawk longhouse was opened as part of the Mohawk Iroquois Village exhibit complex.

As were the old Iroquois Life groups in the State Education Building, the new dioramas and exhibits embody three dimensional research monographs, “making real” the varying research of the State Museum and outside consulting scientists, anthropologists, historians, and Native Peoples.



11989: Wampum Belts Returned to Iroquois Confederacy
From 1898 to 1949 the University of the State of New York acquired many wampum belts that were curated at the State Museum. The individual belts had different histories and functions, including commemorating important events, documenting treaties, and commemorating the Great Law of the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Many were culturally affiliated with individual Iroquois nations, such as the Seneca, while 12 were affiliated with the Onondaga Nation and the Confederacy.

In 1989 the Museum, on behalf of USNY, finalized negotiations with the Onondaga Nation to return custody of those 12 wampum belts, as well as the title and responsibility of "wampum-keeper."

The Great Peace

Detail from The Great Peace...The Gathering of Good Minds by artist Raymond R. Skye

1999: Great Art Series Initiated
Since 1999, the Bank of America Great Art Series has brought art exhibitions from renowned New York institutions to the State Museum. From Pop Art to Folk Art, Impressionism to Minimalism, museum visitors experience the depth and quality of some of the world's finest art collections, including those from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Each Great Art exhibition offers free learning opportunites for educators, students, and vistors of all ages. Popular programs include gallery tours, lectures, and family art activities.

Op Art exhibit from the Albright Knox Art Gallery, 2006

Op Art exhibit from the Albright Knox Art Gallery, 2006

2001: The Carousel
The full-sized carousel was made between 1912 and 1916 by the Herschell-Spillman Company of North Tonawanda, New York, one of the leading manufacturers of carousels in America. It was first used in Wellsville, New York and later at Cuba Lake's Olivecrest Amusement Park in Cuba, New York. The carousel was purchased in March 1975 to be a centerpiece in an exhibit on popular entertainment. However, after many years of storage at a Museum collections facility, a plan was devised to return the carousel to its full operational glory.

In 2001, an enclosure was built on the 4th floor terrace of the Cultural Education Center where the carousel was placed on permanent display. Today, it continues to delight and entertain museum visitors of all ages.


The Carousel

2006: World Trade Center Exhibit
The State Museum’s significant collection of material from the World Trade Center and objects from the international response to the events of September 11, 2001, tell the story of that day and its aftermath.

The exhibit, World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response, details the history of the World Trade Center, the September 11, 2001, attacks, the rescue efforts, the evidence recovery operation at the Fresh Kills facility, and the public response to the September 11th events. The exhibition includes many objects, images, videos, and interactive stations documenting this tragic chapter in New York and America's history.

World Trade Center exhibit

Entrance to the
World Trade Center Exhibit

2006: South Street Seaport Museum Collection
The South Street Seaport Museum archaeology collection, acquired in 2006, is the largest single collection ever received by the New York State Museum. It contains over 2 million artifacts excavated from 10 lower Manhattan sites and includes important archaeological artifacts from the initial Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam, the English Colonial period, and the period of the early American Republic, along with archaeological field records, drawings, maps, and photographs.

Prior to this acquisition, the State Museum had archaeological collections from every county in the state, but lacked systematic archaeological collections from the past 400 years of New York City history. The addition of the South Street Seaport collection will enhance research opportunities as well as contribute to upcoming programs and exhibitions.

World Trade Center exhibit

Artifacts dating pre-1680 were all found together in a basket.


Museum Hours: Open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm | For information, 518-474-5877
The NYS Museum is a program of The University of the State of New York
New York State Education Department | Office of Cultural Education