Yesterday, I visited the Rochester Museum and Science Center, and went through the exhibit “At the Western Door,” which focuses on the years from 1540 to 1820, a period of dramatic change for the Seneca Nation. Look for my article “The Seneca Among the Finger Lakes” in the special edition of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine, coming out in May.
While there, I also went through the amazing exhibit on the other wing of the second floor, which showcases Native American culture across the U.S. prior to the arrival of Europeans.
You’ll marvel at the astonishing collection of artifacts, all beautifully curated, which includes pottery, beads, weapons, tools, clothing , headdresses, and symbols used among various tribes to denote power.
I met with Gian Carlo Cervone, the museum’s Registrar, and he shared that many people come to the museum with arrowheads or pottery shards they’ve found to compare against the collection and are able to get a sense of the period in which they might have been constructed.
Just as often, people of Native American descent come to explore their heritage.
One of the fascinating sections includes research done by Charles F. Wray, an archeologist for the museum, that outlines the movement of the Seneca Villages within the Finger Lakes over each 20 to 30 year span. Prior to the raid on Gannagaro, now Ganondagan, the Senecas lived in longhouses within large villages, moving every 20 or so years. After the raid of 1687, by the Marquis de Denoville and his French troupes, the Senecas began living in more compact dwellings within smaller, more scattered villages.
As you’re leaving the exhibit, pay special attention to the artifacts toward the exit. Created by Native Americans within the last century, these stunning works demonstrate how Native American arts have been adapted to the 20th Century and beyond. The exhibit includes carefully carved wooden figurines, beaded works of art and a quilt embroidered with designs symbolizing cultural connections.
The Rochester Museum and Science Center is located at 657 East Avenue, Rochester and is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for Seniors and college students, Youth 3-18 $8 and children under 3 Free.