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ST. LAWRENCE POWER & EQUIPMENT MUSEUM


 

The St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum is a tax-exempt, education corporation, provisionally chartered by the Board of Regents of the State University of New York. Its roots go back to the former St. Lawrence Gas & Steam Engine Association formed in 1976. The membership and assets of the Association were transferred to the Museum immediately after it received its charter in 2004.

 

The Museum is now prepared to serve its members and the community by expanding its collection of early engines and machines, securing a permanent museum site, establishing storage and display facilities, providing tax benefits to those making contributions, and assuring that a sustainable basis is established for future generations. The Museumís operations are governed by education corporation law and by regulations enforced by the Board of Regents that require a collection management policy, fiscal responsibility, and high ethical standards among others.

 

During 2006, the Museum expects to achieve its first major objective, acquiring a property on which it can develop permanent facilities. Two sites have been identified that meet initial requirements. These include a central location in St. Lawrence County; a farm setting with house, barn, and out buildings; 100+ acres with fields for cultivation; and location on good roads. Each site may have additional features such as a stream, adjacent railway, rental income, or access to public utilities. Each has been offered exclusively for sale to the Museum.

 

Mission Statement

The St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum shall preserve the power systems, equipment and related knowledge and skills that were an integral part of the development of the North Country, especially the region of the St. Lawrence River.Exhibits and programs†† provided†† by†† theMuseumwillfocuslargely on the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Through the Museumís programs, the community and visitors will gain a better understanding of the early, largely rural life-style of the region and how it was

 

At exhibitions there will be displays of antique engines and equipment from the Museumís collection and from the private collections of its members. The displays will demonstrate their operation and use. Many early power and equipment systems utilized readily understood mechanical principles still in use today. These are not only instructive when seen in action, but fun to operate as well. Through its activities, the Museum will provide an exciting environment that will stimulate young minds, promote involvement in history and technology, and encourage recollection and reflection among older members of the community.

 

 

Focus on Members

Since its beginning, the Museum has been driven by its members. The board of trustees and officers of the Museum hold fiduciary responsibility. However, they are elected directly by members. Officers make decisions and provide direction after seeking member consensus and support. There is no paid staff.

 

Members are the mainstay of the two annual exhibitions. The displays and demonstrations of antique engines and equipment from their own collections are a major component. At least half of the nearly 300 members will participate in at least one show each year.

 

Members restore, operate and demonstrate Museum equipment. They provide the labor for setting up show facilities and operate the kitchen to feed visitors. They raise money for development of the Museum, assuring that virtually 100% of all contributions benefits the Museum. Members contribute funds to purchase items for the Museumís collection and for restoration work.

The Shape of a Living Museum

There is a consensus among members and trustees that the physical facilities of the St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum should include the features listed below. Priorities will be established and modified by annual short- and long-term planning

1.      Buildings for storage, maintenance and repair of items in the Museumís collection.

2.      Special displays under roof including:

ō      Large steam and diesel engines powering saw mills and other machines.

ō      An early electric power generating plant.

3.      Protected and open areas for Museum membersí displays.

4.      A Main Street with original or reproduced period houses, blacksmith shop, school, printing shop, gas station, and church among others Ė each fitted with period items.

5.      Farmsteads reflecting the profound changes brought about by the evolution of power sources and equipment. Each will be furnished and appropriately equipped.

ō      A pioneer cabin with animal pens and a wood-ash fertilizer production facility.

ō      An early farm featuring draft horses and horse-drawn equipment.

ō      A 1930ís farm where tractors take the place of horses.

ō      A post WWII farm with early modern tractors and electrical service.

6.      A water turbine powering a mill (dependent on availability of water).

7.      An early railroad depot that once served the area.

8.      Heritage orchards and gardens.

9.      Potable water, electricity, and toilets available for public use.

10.  A food concession facility to serve visitors and generate income.

11.  A pavilion for entertainment and picnics.

12.  Open fields for planting and harvesting demonstrations.

13.  Areas for parking, suitable access roads and walkways.

14.     An area for campers.

15.     An honor wall recognizing those who have provided financial support for the Museum.

 

A New, Broader Vision

Each year, the Museum holds two exhibitions, participates in two others, and provides displays for parades and other special occasions. Its Annual Antique Gas & Steam Engine Exhibition in June attracts 1400 participants and visitors. It is held at the Canton Sportsmanís Club near Canton, NY. The Museumís Old Fashioned Harvest Days takes place during Labor Day weekend, attracting nearly 2000.

 

The June show has featured engines and tractors. The Labor Day weekend exhibition emphasizes harvest activities. This year draft horses and horse-drawn equipment were added. A permanent site will make it possible to demonstrate many other aspects of earlier life in the North Country and to offer many more events.

 

Other organizations and individuals will be welcomed to the site, providing a broader range of exhibits and instruction. They can design, finance, and construct facilities suited to the Museumís mission. Draft horse enthusiasts can oversee the early farm display and demonstrate the use of horse-drawn equipment. A printing club can operate a print shop on Main Street. Poultry fanciers can be invited to construct period facilities for poultry and to join the shows. Antique auto enthusiasts would be invited to furnish and provide a living display at an early gas station.

 

The new site will benefit groups and clubs without means of having their own facilities. In turn, they will support the activities of the Museum. By reaching out to other organizations, the Museumís facilities can be greatly expanded to achieve its mission and enrich the community.

 

 Near-Term Facilities Objectives

The goals for the Museum immediately following acquisition of a property include:

1.      Implementing a financial plan to underwrite the operation and maintenance of the facility and activities of the Museum.

2.      Preparing a long-term site development plan to assure early constructions will be useful and consistent with those of the future.

3.      Erecting a building for storage and routine maintenance of items in the collection.

4.      Promoting contribution to the Museum of antique power and equipment items from individuals among the community.

 

Near-Term Educational Programs

The two annual exhibitions, the annual Antique Gas & Steam Engine Show and Old Fashioned Harvest Days, will remain major Museum programs. Following the concept of a living museum, the role of power systems and equipment of the 1800ís and first half of the 1900ís will be displayed. New emphasis will be placed on teaching and explanation:

ō      How they supported the growth and development of the region.

ō      What life was like before their introduction.

ō      The impact they made on productivity and the quality of life.

 

Explanation will be improved through use of explanatory signs and expanded verbal presentations. Power systems and equipment will be operated to demonstrate their actual use at the time they were built and first employed. Where possible, visitors as well as members of the Museum will be invited to experience hands-on activities.With instruction in their safe operation, they will be able to participate in a variety of tasks ranging from making apple cider to plowing fields.

 

At the new site, new construction will provide opportunity to demonstrate the use of period equipment such as sawmills, planers, draft horses, tractors, and wagons. Where practical, period construction methods will also be used and demonstrated.Repair of existing buildings or relocation of early structures to the site will similarly provide opportunity. Community and member participation will be encouraged.

 

The Future

The barns, lofts and attics of the old farms and homes of the North Country do not hold as many treasures as they used to. But many remain, undiscovered by eBayģ or not yet relegated to the trash heap. The continuing loss of these historical assets is in part due to a lack of a suitable repository for them, in some cases their size, or a lack of appreciation of their true value to the regionís present and future generations. The Museum will provide a home for these treasures and an opportunity for people to literally give back to the community. Contributors to the collection will gain a proprietary interest in the Museumís success. This interest will sustain the Museum and promote further contributions.

 

Within a few years, both annual exhibitions will be held at the permanent site. With established storage and display facilities and a growing collection, it will be possible to begin special events at other times of the year as well. Some will be agricultural such as crop cultivation or hay mowing. Others will focus on homemaking activities such as woodstove cooking and churning butter. Classes will be held on repair, restoration and operation of antique engines and tractors.

 

The success of the St. Lawrence Power & Equipment Museum will depend on the continuing support of its members, further donations and acquisitions for its collections, those who attend the shows and displays, and the good will of those who will provide financial support.