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Current Exhibits

South Gallery

(Closing March 1, 2017)

DESIRES, OPPORTUNITIES, CHANGE: The Shaping of Western New York, 1650-1797
Today the western New York landscape you see is rolling hills, fields, lakeside vacation homes, industrial cities and suburban malls. In this exhibit we encourage you to look back at the period of 1650-1797, a time of great changes in the region. It was when the desire of individuals and nations transformed the forested center of Haudenosaunee life to an agrarian landscape that we still recognize today. It was a time of great ambition, of both greed and compassion, and of conflict and compromise between nations and cultures.
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North Gallery

(changing exhibits)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles:
20th Century Transportation
in Ontario County

through April 1, 2017

With the first successful flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903, the era of modern aviation began. Within ten years, flying grew in popularity in the Finger Lakes beginning with Glenn Curtiss’ flight of his “June Bug”, to local barnstormers, to pilots in the world wars and other military conflicts, to the growth of local airstrips and the establishment of the Canandaigua Airport. By the turn of the 21st century, Ontario County was readily accessible by air both locally and regionally.

At the beginning of the 20th century, railroads were one of the primary modes of transportation throughout the country, connecting the smallest towns with the largest cities. In 1916 there were over 250,000 miles of rails. Railroads hauled 98 percent of the intercity passenger traffic and 77 percent of intercity freight traffic. With the start of World War I, railroads met with overwhelming increases in demand for freight and passenger service. To keep traffic flowing for the war effort the federal government took over the industry from 1917 to 1920. Later, railroads met with increased competition from other forms of transportation. Millions of cars, trucks and buses were on the roads, highways were improving, and planes were more reliable. During the Depression, many railroad companies went bankrupt or were bought by stronger companies. While railroads were jammed with traffic during World War II, after 1945 passenger and freight traffic began to drop quickly and did not recover. The railroad industry declined rapidly, eventually resulting in the formation of Conrail and Amtrak in 1971.

During the 20th century Ontario County roads were transformed from rutted dirt tracks to paved highways and secondary roads connecting its cities, towns, and villages with the rest of the state and nation. The Good Roads Movement of the early 1900s successfully advocated for better roadways using political change to increase state and local funding. In the post-World War II era, New York State became one of the first states to develop and construction a superhighway – the Thruway – across the entire state. Later in the 20th century, new road construction created bypasses and wider roadways to ease traffic congestion and improve road safety.

Lower Level

Pioneer Kitchen Exhibit
When the Ontario County Historical Museum was built in 1914, a “Pioneer Kitchen” period room was installed. Although education programs are held in this space, its appearance has changed very little in 100 years.

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