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News of Otsego County

chris rossi

Monkey Business, Much More, Made Christmas Fun

Monkey Business, Much More,

Made Christmas Fun

Fenimore Museum Dips Into Its Collection
For Cards, Toys, Other ‘Holiday Goodies’
Fenimore Curator Chris Rossi shows off a circus monkey pull-toy in the “Decking the Halls” exhibit, on now through Dec. 31.(Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

When people around here think of Christmas, they think of…monkeys?

At least they used to.

“In the 19th century, they were still developing Christmas imagery,” said James Matson, Fenimore Art Museum assistant curator. “Images of animals had a more exotic appeal, and animals like monkeys were associated with the circus, with fun.”

Two such playful monkeys adorn one of the many Christmas cards at The Fenimore’s “Decking the Halls” exhibit, open through Dec. 31.

“It’s something delightful for the holidays,” said Chief Curator Chris Rossi. “It’s been fun to go through the archives to find these unseen holiday goodies.”

The exhibit features ornaments, paintings, toys and illustrations celebrating Christmas not just across the country, but right here in Cooperstown.

Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote about local Christmases in her “Rural Hours,” said Chief Curator Chris Rossi. “She writes about the greenery and gifts, and we thought it would be fun to include her voice in the exhibition.”

She wrote, “Christmas must always be a happy, cheerful day. The fresh and fragrant greens, the friendly gifts and words of goodwill, the ‘Merry Christmas’ smiles on most faces one meets, give a warm glow to the day.”

“Things haven’t changed much,” said Rossi.

Among the Christmas cards in the exhibit is a 1931 example sent out by Edward Severin Clark, Jane Clark’s great uncle, as well as a “Christmas in Cooperstown” contributed by the Afton Historical Society.

“They found it in their collections and were kind enough to bring it our way,” said Rossi. “The timing was right.”

You’ll also see an image of Thomas Nast’s original Santa Claus, in the Christmas 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly. “Nast is credited with the definitive ideal of how Santa looks,” said Rossi.

Early depictions, Nast’s and others, show him alone making the toys, she said, adding, “We know Santa has elves, but we don’t see them in any of the works in this exhibit.”

Elves, like the famous red velvet suit, came more into prominence in the 20th century.

The card case isn’t the only place a playful monkey is featured. A hearth filled with toys includes one on a pull-string. “The monkey is the hidden theme,” Rossi jokes. “Making the tableaux was the most fun, getting to pick out a mantelpiece and all these toys.”

There’s a teddy bear, of course, and building blocks, as well as an elaborate dollhouse. “Dollhouses were fun to play with, because a little girl could learn about housekeeping and furnishing a home.”

Christmas trees didn’t come into fashion in America until Queen Victoria put one up.

Dried berries made for a festive garland and cotton stood in for snow, with paper cones that could be filled with sweets for the children.

But without electricity, the glow of the tree had to be lit with thin white candles. “You would only light them for a few minutes,” said Rossi. “Otherwise, your whole tree would go up in flames.”

In addition to homemade ornaments, a number of glass ornaments from the late 19th century were brought out of The Fenimore’s collection, as well as silver tinsel trim. “With the candles, it must have looked very bright,” said Rossi.

This year, with no Candlelight Evening – The Farmers’ museums’ usual seasonal centerpiece – “Decking The Halls” is one of the alternatives developed for the Christmas of COVID.

At The Farmers’, Holiday Lantern Tours are being offered, this coming weekend and Dec. 18-19.

“I don’t want to be too modest, but The Fenimore and Farmers’ Museum makes a considerable contribution to how Christmas is celebrated in Cooperstown,” said Matson.

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2019
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Explore The Autumn Constellations

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ASTRONOMY – 7:30 – 9 p.m. Learn to find the North Star, Cygnus, Draco, other constellations in the autumn sky with nothing but your eyes. Astrology lovers have probably visited a planetarium or even use led projectors to create their own at home, but this is the real deal. Perfect for those who have never before witnessed the majesty of a starry sky. Bring blankets or a chair, dress warmly. Free. Mohican Farm, 7207 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-282-4087 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/naked-eye-astronomy-the-autumn-sky/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5

XNG ‘Bomb’ Truck Presentation

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PUBLIC SAFETY – 7 p.m. Presentation “#Bomb Trucks 101: Understand the Risks” with Craig L. Stevens, co-written w/ William Huston. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. 607-431-2080 or visit stopthebombtrucks.blogspot.com

FOOD FOR THOUGHT – 12:30 p.m. “Behind the Scenes at Fenimore Art Museum” with Chris Rossi, Director of Exhibitions. Cost, $30/non-member. South Terrace, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547–1510 or visit www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/calendar-a

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 13

Auction Action Discussion

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GALLERY TALK – 3:30 p.m. Discuss the enigmatic works of the late David Byrd with guest curators. Free admission. Refreshments available. The Art Garage, 689 Beaver Meadow Rd., Cooperstown. Call (607)547-5327 or visit www.facebook.com/TheArtGarageCooperstown/

CAREER FAIR – 2-7 p.m. See what jobs are available at Arc Otsego, 35 Academy St., Oneonta. Call 607-432-8595 or visit www.facebook.com/arcotsego/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JULY 19
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, JULY 19

Kids Day In The Woods

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GET THE KIDS OUT! – 10-11:30 a.m. Help the kids beat the Summer doldrums. Bring them for a fun day exploring the woods. Gilbert Lake State Park, 18 CCC Rd., Laurens. occainfo.org/calendar/save-date-get-kids-gilbert-lake-state-park/

WEDNESDAY WORKSHOP – 1-3 p.m. Try a new craft in a small group setting with a knowledgeable instructor. This week its Origami with instructor Pat Follett. Reservations required. The Swart-Wilcox House Museum, Wilcox ave., Oneonta. Call (607)287-7011 or visit swartwilcoxhouse.wordpress.com/wednesday-workshops-2017/

HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5
HAPPENIN’ OTSEGO for WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5

Poetry Reading

With Ishion Hutchinson

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POETRY READING – 7 p.m. Reading by Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson. Author of 2 collections, “Far District” and “House of Lords and Commons.” Martha Daniel will open the event by reading her poem “On the Table.” Celebration room, Shineman Chapel Hall, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Info, email David Lubell at lubelld@hartwick.edu

EGG DECORATING – 6:30 p.m. Pysanky, Ukranian egg decorating workshop using traditional materials and designs to create a folk patterned easter egg. Material fee, $5. Registration required. Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Info, hmloneonta.org/adult-programs/#crafts

ART DISCUSSION – 12:30-2:30 p.m. Join director of exhibitions Chris Rossi for this weeks Food for Thought discussion “50 Years, 50 Works, 50 Reasons. Maurice Sendak: The Memorial Exhibition.” Registration required. Cost, $25 members, $30 non-members. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. Info, www.fenimoreartmuseum.org/lectures or call (607) 547-1461

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