Our History
Walter Elwood had been an educator in the Greater Amsterdam School District (GASD) in the early 1900's. Having traveled around the world as a young man, Mr. Elwood became an avid collector of ethnographic materials and natural history items from every corner of the globe.
He started his "museum" in the Fifth Ward School on the south side of Amsterdam, and is fondly remembered by many in our community, carrying interesting materials from school to school in an effort to educate students with authentic artifacts and objects. Upon his death in the 1950's, he stipulated that the collection should be left to the Greater Amsterdam School District.
Our extensive assortment of approximately 25,000 artifacts fall into four categories: multicultural, Victorian, natural history, and items that relate to Mohawk Valley's colorful industrial past (documentary, photographic and tangible).
Since its inception, the museum has served to link school curriculum to the dynamic richness of our common cultural and historic heritage, and has functioned as an intellectual and artistic center for Amsterdam and the Mohawk Valley. We offer interactive learning environments, educational classes, and a spectrum of cultural events. We also feature various new exhibits, guest lecturers, and summer school classes in science, math and natural history.
The Walter Elwood Museum of the Mohawk Valley (formally the Mohawk Valley Heritage Association or MVHA) was formed in 1981 to protect this small, school-owned museum. Due to budgetary difficulties, the school district has had to give up staffing the museum, and has turned over management of the collections to our group. We have chosen a new board of trustees to oversee the interests of the museum, have restructured our organizational policies, have received a provisional charter from the New York State Department of Education. We have worked closely with experienced consultants to map out our course for the future, and with vigorous fundraising efforts, are poised for significant growth.
For some of us, this Museum's past is limited to the past two to five years, or even the past twenty-five years. So much has happened in this relatively recent past, that we forget the rich and tumultuous history the Museum has had since its founding in 1939 by Walter Elwood in the fifth Ward School on the South Side of Amsterdam.
We recently discovered scrapbooks that document the fascinating evolution of the Museum from one man's passion for collecting, documenting and understanding to an educational resource with potential to change the circumstance of this community in ways that are far-reaching and dramatic. The charismatic Elwood was able to amass a collection that, even in his day, had been considered and extremely valuable teaching tool that would only grow in size and usefulness. Surprisingly, he also dealt with problems of space, proper care of objects and worries about the future.
Though the fortunes of the Museum have waxed and waned over the years with changing interests and economies, the Museum has always found steadfast support in deeply dedicated individuals, businesses and organizations from our community. People have been generous with their time, talents and money, having recognized the important role this institution plays in offering enrichment opportunities to our families and generous to come.
Staff Members
Ann Peconie Executive Director
Board Members
Robert Going, Esq. President
Bert Nepaulsingh Vice President
Mick Mullins Treasurer
Mary Going Secretary
Cheryl Lewis Trustee
Phillip Pierce Trustee
Affiliates and Friends
Amsterdam Printing Company
Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation
Children’s Aid Association
City of Amsterdam
CTW Fund
Dr. & Mrs. Govind Rao
Fage Yogurt
Fort Plain Museum
Mohawk Industries Foundation
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
Old Fort Johnson
Quandt's Foodservice Distributors
Riverlink Park