Greater Oneonta Historical Society: New Exhibitions and Plans for New Additions

Oneonta History Center/ TSM Oneonta

Chelsea Sookra, Staff Writer |

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society has some big plans for its presentation of history. I met with Andrew Kendall, Collections Assistant. You can also see him behind the front desk on the weekends. He showed me the two new exhibits that the historical society has to offer; Two Oneonta – Yager/van Ess: Selections from the Yager Museum and Black Lives at Hartwick College: Then and Now. Both exhibits will be up until Dec. 8th.

The Yager/van Ess collection showcases the lives of Willard Yager (1855-1929), an Oneontan who collected objects from, Indigonous cultures of the Upper Susquehanna region, and Reverend Louis van Ess (1897-1960), a Wisconsin native that became Rector of Saint James Episcopal Church in Oneonta in 1940. Van Ess collected American and Renaissance paintings that are now a part of the Yager Museum’s collection. Yager and van Ess believed their collections should stay in Oneonta to fulfill the educational mission of Hartwick College and benefit the community.

Black Lives at Hartwick: Then and Now was created by Hartwick students and donated by Hartwick College. This exhibit showcases the first black students at Hartwick from the 19th-century to the present. This exhibition will feature photos and documents from Hartwick College’s Paul F. Cooper Jr. Archives. It highlights the struggles black students went through like not being admitted to Hartwick until the 1950s when Hartwick became a college in 1928 and its President Charles R. Myers claimed to have no racial bias. Their successes are highlighted as well with descriptions of what they accomplished at Hartwick despite the odds.

Hartwick Prof. Wolff’s students viewing the Black Lives at Hartwick: Then and Now Exhibit (GOHS FaceBook)

Exhibits aren’t only what’s new at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society. The Greater Oneonta Historical Society has plans to revamp what they already have. They’re currently in the process of redoing permanent exhibits from 2007, such as what they currently have on Oneonta railroads. Many of their exhibits end in the 19020s, but they are trying to get more history up until the present. Kendall told me, “The exhibitions aren’t up to museum standards.” There are a few inaccuracies at the Greater Oneonta Historical Society like the Eyewitness Account of the Dietz Family Massacre. They know now that Jacob Dietz was born nine years after the massacre so he couldn’t have any recollection of it. The painting of it was also based off an 1836 woodcut.

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society would also like to be more inclusive in its history. They want to “steer away from 19th-century ideas and focus on actual history.” They don’t have much women’s history and they would like to change that. Along with bringing some light onto women’s history, they would like to reach out to the NAACP for black Oneonta history. Their permanent exhibit is a “very standard white male exhibit.”

The Greater Oneonta Historical Society is open Wednesday to Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free to all. If you can’t stop by, their website is Along with exhibits, the Greater Oneonta Historical Society has a resource library and a gift shop.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.