New exhibit and series of talks to mark annual Adirondack Week

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Noted conservationist Paul Schaefer works in his home office in 1950; the home is now part of the Kelly Adirondack Center.

Noted conservationist Paul Schaefer works in his home office in
1950; the home is now part of the Kelly Adirondack Center.

A new exhibit, a student hike, an informational fair, and talks on the arts in the Adirondack Park, the new environmental movement and the value of wilderness are part of Union’s fourth annual Adirondack Week May 8-13.

The week helps the College celebrate its rich and deep history with the Adirondacks. Union alumni and members of the faculty have been involved in the Adirondacks for well over a century. Numerous faculty members have conducted research in the Adirondacks and incorporated it into their courses. The College also has hosted a number of academic conferences and symposia centered on the Adirondacks, and the six-million-acre Adirondack Park is a destination for student field trips.

The College also operates the Kelly Adirondack Center. Located three miles from campus in Niskayuna, the center includes the former home of the noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer (1908-1996) and the Adirondack Research Library. The library boasts a unique collection of material on the Adirondack Park and the New York State Forest Preserve, including rare books, maps, photographs, documents and the personal papers of some of the region's foremost conservationists.

Among the highlights of Adirondack Week is the opening reception Thursday, May 12, at 5 p.m. for a new exhibit, Grassroots Activism and the American Wilderness: Pioneers in the 20th Century Adirondack Park Conservation Movement. Featuring selected material from the John S. Apperson and Paul Schaefer collections held at the research library, the exhibit will be on display in the Lally Reading Room in Schaffer Library through December.

The exhibit also celebrates the completion of a Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources to organize and make available to a national audience information about the two collections of papers.

The collections, spanning from 1899 to 1996, provide a remarkable window into the history of the American environmental movement and the tensions that erupted over efforts to conserve the Adirondack Forest Preserve and expand the Adirondack Park. The materials also give a broader understanding of the history of national park and wilderness preservation and the critical role activism played in those efforts.

“Both Apperson and Schaefer were visionary leaders and powerful grassroots organizers who reshaped the landscape of environmental preservation in New York and the United States,” said Abi Simkovic, project archivist and curator of the exhibit. “The far-reaching impact of both of these figures is simply astounding. Both men were involved in the top echelon of the national conversation regarding conservation, particularly in their 20s and 30s. I am hopeful that students will find the impact these two figures made at that age relatable, empowering and inspiring.”

Simultaneously, a smaller exhibit, Union and the Adirondacks, will be on display in the Beuth Atrium. Curated by Donna Burton, the exhibit showcases early efforts by members of the campus community to conserve and develop appreciation for forested lands throughout the Adirondack region.

Other highlights of the week include a talk 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, in the Nott Memorial by Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club, and an Adirondack Fair from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, May 13, on Library Lawn.