Staten Island Museum
St. George building
|Location||1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, New York, United States|
|Type||General interest museum|
Founded in 1881 by fourteen of New York City’s first “environmental activists”, the Staten Island Museum houses artifacts and specimens from ancient to contemporary periods. This “mini-Smithsonian” is rich with arts, natural sciences and local history.
The museum’s holdings are formally organized into three main collections: Natural Sciences, Fine Art, and History Archives & Library. The natural science collections encompass over 500,000 botanical, biological, anthropological and mineral specimens including bird nests and eggs, mounted animals, fossils, shells, and a significant collection of insects, including important type specimens. Based upon a 19th-century model, the art collection includes works spanning prehistory to the modern period, with representations of diverse world cultures from both the Western and Non-Western traditions. The historical collections include a library, maps and atlases, early films, audio recordings, photographs, historical objects, ephemera and archival documents reaching back to the 17th century.
The Staten Island Museum was founded in 1881 as a private society of local naturalists and antiquarians who pooled their personal collections to create the public museum in 1908. William T. Davis, along with Nathaniel Lord Britton, Arthur Hollick, Charles W. Leng, are some of the founding fathers who also contributed significantly to the city’s nature preserve, research and education. The museum focused on environmental protection and has participated in the preservation of High Rock Park and the William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge. Since 1908, the staff has conducted annual bird counts together with the Audubon Society. In 1909, the Section of Art was organized, and in 1919 the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences was incorporated to reflect the broader mission which also includes local history.
The museum has been called a "Mini Smithsonian" because of the breadth of its collections, and is based on a 19th-century model of creating within one's own community the complete resources for a cultural education. As a general interest museum, it is one of the last intact examples of the first type of public museum in America, and today serves a diverse audience of 80,000 people annually, with the goal of providing cross-disciplinary exhibitions for a wide cross-section of visitors.
As the oldest cultural organization on Staten Island, the museum has been instrumental in the founding of many other cultural organizations in the area. These include the New York Botanical Garden (the institute's co-founder Nathaniel Lord Britton became its first director), the Staten Island Zoo (originally the Staten Island Zoological Society, a Section of the Museum in 1933), the Staten Island Historical Society (running Historic Richmond Town), and the Staten Island Children's Museum. The museum also greatly impacted Staten Island's environment, contributing to the preservation of the Greenbelt and the establishment of other environmental organizations.
It is the mission of the Staten Island Museum to document, research, preserve, collect, interpret and exhibit significant objects and themes in the areas of natural science, art and local history, with the goal of educating, celebrating and enriching the community of Staten Island in particular, and the New York metropolitan region in general.
The Museum’s art collection ranges from ancient Egyptian sculpture, to Renaissance paintings, to 19th century Hudson River School landscapes of Staten Island and New York Harbor, to 21st-century abstract art, photography and new media. It is the only museum actively collecting works by contemporary Staten Island artists. Its collections include American landscape paintings, Old Master prints, historic costume pieces and costume accessories, African sculpture and masks, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities, Japanese prints, Pre-Columbian ceramics, ancient and modern Native American artifacts, English and American silver, and both Western and Non-Western objects of vertu, for example collections of Chinese snuff bottles, carved smoking pipes, and pocket watches, the bequests of local benefactor-collectors. It has a group of Samuel H. Kress Italian Renaissance paintings, and several complementary small 19th-century Renaissance-revival bronzes. There are important 19th–20th-century paintings featuring Staten Island and New York Harbor, fine 19th and 20th-century portraits, and works by prominent local contemporary artists. Examples of traditional representational art in the Staten Island Museum’s permanent collection include prints by Rembrandt, Goya, Piranesi and Audubon, paintings by Cropsey, Moran, Alma-Tadema, Giovanni di Paolo and Pordenone, sculpture by Hiram Powers and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. There are Japanese prints by Hiroshige, Hokusai, Utamaro and Kunisada. The Modern Art collection includes works by John Sloane, Guy Pene du Bois, George Bellows, Chagall, Leger, Maillol, Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Isabel Bishop, Peter Max, Donald Judd and the folk artist Clementine Hunter. Over 150 women artists are represented in the Staten Island Museum’s holdings.
The museum has over half a million items in the local History Collection, including authentic land grants with the wax seals of King Charles II (1674) and King William III (1696) as well as a 1776 military document signed by William Howe, Commander in Chief of the British Armies.
The Museum houses a 130-year comprehensive record of the changing biodiversity of the New York metro area, fully documented with specimens, including specimens of birds and mammals, a collection of fish, amphibians and reptiles preserved in alcohol, 500,000 mounted insects, and 25,000 plants preserved in the herbarium.
Infinite Compassion: Avalokiteshvara in Asian ArtEdit
A collaboration with Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Infinite Compassion introduces visitors to Buddhist art, culture and belief across Asia.
After the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara, is the most ubiquitous deity in Mahayana Buddhism. This revered Bodhisattva promotes compassion. A Bodhisattva is an individual who, upon achieving enlightenment, renounces his/her own Nirvana (extinction) in order to help others achieve enlightenment. The exhibit will interpret this aspect of Buddhist art with 46 sculptures, ritual objects, paintings (thangkas) and photographs from India, Tibet, China, Nepal and Japan, as well as contemporary Asian art.
Guest Curator and scholar Patricia Karetzky, (O. Munsterberg Chair of Asian Art, Bard College), developed the exhibition content in collaboration with the two museums. Additional works will be on loan from the Rubin Museum of Art; the Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College and private collectors.
Remember the Mastodon: Diversity & PreservationEdit
Remember the Mastodon is about the hard facts of extinction, the wonder of enduring species, the importance of bio-diversity and the challenge of preservation. Includes fossils, lost bird species, and a full-size replica of a Mastodon emerging through the wall! Visit the Museum opening weekend to help name the newest addition to the Museum team!
The Wall of InsectsEdit
A display of over 150 beetles, cicadas, butterflies and moths from the permanent collection.
Staten Island SEENEdit
The exhibition traces this borough’s unique history and landscape from the 17th century to the present. These works are made by amateur and professional artists, working in a broad range of styles and materials from ink drawing to anaglyph 3-D video.
After a successful run of one year, about half of our inaugural exhibition, Staten Island SEEN has been taken down to make way for our latest offering, Infinite Compassion. You can still view parts of Staten Island SEEN on the second floor in the Elizabeth Egbert Gallery.
Opening the Treasure Box: Bringing the World HomeEdit
Presenting art objects spanning 4,000 years of artistic endeavor gathered from five continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America. Countries represented include Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, and the United States. The oldest piece is an Egyptian funerary statuette of a striding man, dating from 2,000 BCE.
From Farm to CityEdit
A glimpse into Staten Island’s unique history, its people, and the themes that resonate as collective truths on this unusual island using images and historic documents, audio interviews, and digital collections. This exhibition strives to reunite Islanders with their past and share the evolving story of New York City’s Borough of Parks with visitors. From Farm to City: Staten Island 1661–2012 was created by the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibition focused on land-use on Staten Island. This legacy exhibition focuses on the people and themes that define the Island throughout history.
Operations at Snug HarborEdit
Staten Island’s "hometown" museum has consolidated its collection to the Staten Island Museum at Snug Harbor. A state of the art LEED certified building opened to the public as of September 2015. In addition, the Museum operates its Art Conservation Studio and the Staten Island History Center & Archives at Snug Harbor Cultural Center, joining other cultural institutions at the site. The museum has transformed from the 19th-century model of a museum as a "cabinet of curiosities", into a fully realized 21st-century institution that is accessible, diverse, technologically advanced, and demonstrates leadership in collections management, exhibitions, education and public programming.
The new museum, on the Snug Harbor Campus, is the first federal historic landmark on Staten Island designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, including geo-thermal heating and cooling. The mainly city-funded ($23 million) renovation of Building A added over 25,000 square feet (2,300 m2), with additional space to follow in Building B (Bio-Diversity) in 2022.
The Museum displays 'Staten Island Scene/Seen', a new interpretation of Staten Island across three centuries, including commissioned works by contemporary artists and featuring Hudson River School landscape paintings by Jasper Cropsey and Edward Moran from the museum's collection.
In addition, a life-size replica of a mastodon greets visitors as they explore the museum, a creature that once roamed the hills of Staten Island as evidenced by local discoveries held in the museum's fossil collection on display in the new lobby.
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