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.
The Walter Elwood Museum is a gateway to learning using the past to illuminate the present. Utilizing the stories and artifacts of local experience, we examine history and culture in all its dimensions. We offer access to information through educational programs, unique collections and creative activities to enrich our understanding of ourselves and each other.
As a cultural center, the Museum inspires curiosity, creativity and understanding of our past and present. The Museum promotes a dynamic, rich and unified community that values its heritage.
To provide educational programming and events to the youth and families of the Mohawk Valley by highlighting our area’s rich history and culture, to foster in all a love of exploration, learning and action as our founder, Walter Elwood, characterized best and to preserve our collections for generations to come.
Walter Elwood is born in the Town of Florida.
Walter graduates from Amsterdam High School as Salutatorian
Walter graduates from Cornell University.
Elwood’s world traveling begins.
Elwood returns to Amsterdam as Superintendent of Schools.
Elwood starts the School Museum in the Fifth Ward Elementary School.
Elwood worries about adequate housing of his collections and the future of his Museum.
Elwood dies. His wife gifts the collections to the GASD.
GASD transfers collections to current location.
GASD considers closing Museum due to budgetary difficulty. Mohawk Valley Heritage Association (MVHA) is formed to save the Museum.
GASD is again forced with closing the Museum. MVHA takes over management of the Museum and begins strategic planning for the future.
MVHA is reincorporated as the Walter Elwood Museum (WEM) and receives a provisional charter from the NYS Department of Education.
Citizens of Amsterdam vote in public referendum to turn full ownership of the collections to the WEM. First new permanent exhibit in three decades is opened.
Walter Elwood Museum relocates after 40 years to the Guy Park Manor along the banks of the historic Mohawk River, Erie Canal, and railroad. Although unpacking continues, please excuse our dust and come in and see the historic building from Revolutionary Days of Guy Johnson and the WEM collections and exhibits displayed in our new home.
Museum relocates to 100 Church Street Amsterdam, NY after Hurricane Irene disaster in 2011.
2014 – Present
2014 Museum reopens at new location, the former Noteworthy and Sanford Carpet Mills as permanent home.
|Ann Peconie||Executive Director|
|Rachel Richard||Administrative Assistant|
|Bert Nepaulsingh||Vice President|
Affiliates and Friends
Amsterdam Printing Company
Children’s Aid Association
City of Amsterdam
Dr. & Mrs. Govind Rao
Fort Plain Museum
Mohawk Industries Foundation
Montgomery County Archives
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
Old Fort Johnson