Monday, April 27, 2009

Custom Made for Me

Ever come across something -- a book, a blog, a museum exhibit -- that seems like the perfect intersection of your interests? I found such a book recently, and it's going on my birthday list for sure. The Tavern Lamps Are Burning is a literary journey through New York State since its colonization up until about the 1960s (that's when this book came out). It's edited by Carl Carmer and contains lots of interesting morsels: Rudyard Kipling's description of Buffalo's grain elevators, Charles Dickens' visit to the Shaker colony in Lebannon, NY before it became a museum, and writings by Red Jacket and Mary Jemison. There are short stories, poems, and excerpts from longer works. All in all, it's around 500 pgs long and not the type of work one reads cover to cover.

The book was published in 1964, as my graduate program was being founded. I thought I'd recognized the author's name, and I'm still not 100% sure I do, but he was a trustee of the museum my program works with, and dedicated this book to one of the founders of my program. I think it would be an excellent project for any institution in the state to update this book. Things have changed a great deal in the state since the book was published, and not always for the better. But many new writers and works would be worthy of excerption and inclusion, such as Richard Russo's Mohawk, The Risk Pool and Bridge of Sighs; Lauren Belfer's City of Light; and many, many others that I can't think of at the moment.

The book also inspired me to share some of my photos on this blog from around New York State. I have quite a few of them, after all. I'm going to be doing that all this week -- certainly not promising an update every day, but who knows?

Today's are from Camp Sagamore, in the Adirondack Mountains. Built by the Vanderbilts in 1897, today it's a tourist attraction. It's also host to overnight programs like Elderhostel and a corporate retreat. Every year, the Upstate History Alliance holds an institute there for museum professionals. I was privileged enough to attend one year. The leaves were beginning to change and it was just gorgeous. Even if the sessions had been absolute crap, it would have been worthwhile. But as it was, I learned a lot, had a lot of fun, and enjoyed a truly gorgeous setting in New York State.

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