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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Somers Artifacts Featured in Bard's 'Circus and the City' Exhibit Show
runs through Feb. 3 at Bard Graduate Center Galleries in New York City.
 
Somers Historical Society President Grace Zimmermann showing an image of a Somers artifact featured in the "Circus and the City" exhibit at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. Credit Julia Halewicz
from---yorktown-somers.patch.com
By Julia Halewicz
October 5, 2012
Somers has long held a stake in the history of the circus, earning the designation "Cradle of the American Circus" and a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
And it was in Somers that a group of traveling menagerie entrepreneurs incorporated their businesses in downtown's Elephant Hotel and amassed great wealth, effectively sealing Somers' tie to the circus and American history.
Somers is again being singled out for its contribution to circus history in an exhibit called "Circus and the City: New York 1793-2010" at Bard Graduate Center Galleries. The show opened Sept. 21 and runs through Feb. 3, 2013 and features 30 artifacts from the Somers Historical Society collection.


"Circus and the City" exhibit catalog. Credit Amazon.com
"The exhibition is a tremendous benefit to the society because it shows that our collection is a superior collection that historically is very significant," Somers Historical Society President Grace Zimmermann said. "We are not just another historical society with nice antiques."
Among the artifacts loaned are an elephant bull hook and a tusk chain believed to have belonged to Hachaliah Bailey. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The New-York Historical Society are among other institutions that loaned items to the exhibit, which showcases approximately 200 items and took three years to mount.  
The exhibition "uses New York City as a lens through which to explore the extraordinary development and spectacular pageantry of the American circus. Through a wide variety of ephemera, images, and artifacts, the exhibition documents the history of the circus in the city, from the seminal equestrian displays of the late eighteenth century through the iconic late nineteenth-century American railroad circus to the Big Apple Circus of today," according to the exhibit description.
The New York Times advanced the exhibit: "Circus buffs and fan magazines have kept big-top lore alive, but until recently many museums and historical societies did not deem the itinerant, ephemeral circus worthy of documenting or preserving. 'We know much about the development of the arts in New York City, but we know very little about the development of the circus,' said LaVahn G. Hoh, a circus historian who is professor of drama at the University of Virginia (and is not connected to the exhibition)."
For the Somers Historical Society, which is celebrating its 56th year, the exhibit represents a chance to share an old tale with a new audience. And some artifacts are being framed and showcased for the first time.
"We are really adhering to our mission of education," Zimmermann said.
For more information on the exhibit, go to www. bgc.bard.edu.

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