OHA is a private nonprofit educational association of heritage related Services, Museums, Research and Educational Centers, and Retail Operations.
Collecting, Preserving, Processing, Interpreting, Storing and Exhibiting: The majority of OHA’s time, and resources, are devoted to Collecting, Preserving, Processing, Interpreting, Storing, and Exhibiting the history of Syracuse and Onondaga County. These activities are what define us as a “non-discretionary” art & cultural institution. Every single day, items come to us for consideration for inclusion in our collections. If the item, or collection, is historically significant, we’re not doing our job if we don’t accept it. We have no real control over our workload in this particular part of our business. Over the past few years, OHA has taken on new collections that range from a manila envelope filled with photos to scores of paintings, objects, clothing, and furniture to six tractor-trailers full of the 140 year history of the Syracuse China Company. We are not building a collection simply for the purpose of building a collection. And, almost everything else we do concerns raising and making the money necessary to carry out these activities.
Off-site Exhibits take a variety of forms. These include Temporary and Traveling Exhibits that we produce for many events and organizations. Permanent Off-site Exhibits: OHA has permanent exhibits all over the county, from a 1,500 square foot exhibit on our military history at the War Memorial to an exhibit at Bonadio Group’s headquarters on the Bradley Powered Forging Hammer, which was manufactured in that building and helped build everything from the Trans Siberian Rail Road to the Panama Canal. We also produce Company Exhibits that highlight the history and contributions of companies in our area. A historical company exhibit speaks to that organization’s longevity, adaptability, sustainability, and relevance. They are used for marketing, promotion, and recruiting, as well as employee morale boosting.
OHA is an educational institution, so practically everything we do has education at its core, but this category of Services deals specifically with Educational Programming. Our Education Department provides over 120 educational programs per year, from our Living History Tours, like our very popular Ghostwalks to Keynote Addresses to lectures to a variety of in-school programs and museum tours to teacher training to curriculum development.
Our Publishing Department is another very active one at OHA. We publish two editions of our 60-page glossy magazine, “History Highlights,” per year as part of OHA’s member benefits. We also publish a number of books each year. At heart, we are story tellers and everyone loves a good story. We write quite a bit for Social Media, including OHA’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as contributions to independent sites. We are regular contributors to the Post-Standard, Syracuse Media Group, and the Central New York Business Journal. We anchor the back of “CNY-The Good Life” magazine every issue and we often write feature articles for these, and many other publications and journals. We also write exhibit text, scripts, brochures, and programs.
OHA produces short subject films, like 90 second interstitials for PBS, short mobile device-accessed films, edited oral history films and documentary films of varying lengths. Our Skä·noñh – Great Law of Peace Center is actually film-based. The centerpiece of each of the six permanent exhibits is a 4-minute film featuring Haudenosaunee elders and leaders telling you their history and values as they have been handed down through generations of oral history practice. Our films and our publications allow us to reach a much larger audience than we can with just our museums, off-site exhibits, or educational outreach programming.
Every year, OHA’s Development Department produces a number of fundraising, and friend-raising, events. These range from our annual formal gala, “Our Glorious Workplaces,” to trips, parties, member events, book club, receptions, and openings.
OHA provides historic perspective for many individual and community projects. It’s important to use our history to learn what worked and what didn’t and why and see what principles we can apply to the issues of today.
Onondaga Historical Museum – 321 Montgomery Street, Syracuse: OHA’s flagship museum in downtown Syracuse is our community’s only general comprehensive history museum and it is our goal to maintain it as a free facility. At the Onondaga Historical Museum, ALL of our exhibits are free ALL of the time and we intend to keep it that way as a service to the community. Permanent exhibits include “Heart of New York” (covering an overview of the history of Onondaga County), the Underground Railroad, Syracuse China, and our Brewing History. Our five temporary galleries are always changing to showcase the depth of our collections and the skills of our curators. We mount an average of 12 temporary in-house exhibits per year in our museums so there’s always something new (that’s old) to see.
Skä·noñh – Great Law of Peace Center – 6680 Onondaga Lake Parkway, Liverpool : The Skä·noñh – Great Law of Peace Center presents the authentic voice of the Haudenosaunee through their Oral History tradition. As an Oral History based facility, it pays unique tribute to oral history as a valid historical documentary form. It is also the only facility that tells the history and values of the Haudenosaunee according to the spiritual and political center of the 6-Nation Confederacy – the Onondaga Nation.
Sainte Marie Mission Site Museum: The recreated 17th century Mission, known by many as the “French Fort,” marks the first official established contact between the Onondaga Nation and the French in Central New York in the mid-1600s.
The narrative centers on the brief history of the Mission; how it came to be, who was there, what their duties where, how they lived, etc. It will also cover the conflicts resulting from the “Doctrine of Discovery” and the culture clashes that ensued from the differences in perspective between European settlers and Native Americans.
Through interpretive panels and audio tours, the Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois Site Museum supports the mission of the Skä·noñh-Great Law of Peace Center to foster an examination of differences in cultures, histories, values, and beliefs in order to develop a more respectful and informed understanding of differing perspectives to create a more peaceful coexistence among diverse peoples who share a common land and environment.
RESEARCH & EDUCATIONAL CENTERS:
Richard and Carolyn Wright Research Center:The Richard & Carolyn Wright Research Center located on the 2nd floor of our building in downtown houses the largest collection of local history – it should – we’ve been continually collecting for over 153 years! The collection includes some of the most important historical research material in the country.
Great Law of Peace Educational Center: The Great Law of Peace Educational Center, directed by Dr. Phil Arnold of S.U., develops methods of teaching Haudenosaunee history. The Educational Center also sponsors a series of University-level symposiums and sponsors several programs throughout the year that honor Haudenosaunee art, music, dance, food, and sports (like Lacrosse).
Gift Gallery Museum Stores: OHA has two Gift Gallery Museum stores; one at each of our museums. We develop and design many of our retail products. All Gift Gallery products are connected, in some way, to our history. Many come with narrative literature that details the history behind the products making them educational, as well as beautiful, practical, and collectable. Our products represent our local history and a veritable cornucopia of local designers, manufacturers, crafters, and entrepreneurs.
Retail Collaborations: OHA develops products in collaboration with other retailers and manufacturers, who also sell them through their own retail and wholesale outlets. These collaborations allow our products to reach larger markets and provide OHA with manufacturing operations and abilities that we do not have. They also add value to our partners by expanding their product lines using quality images, designs, recipes, etc. that have the considerable marketing advantage of being connected to history. They also help fulfill a social responsibility for the company since proceeds from all sales benefit OHA. Each product tells its own story about the role it played in our American story.
OHA has formulated a plan in collaboration a number of other stakeholders, by which OHA would own and operate the historic Gustav Stickley House on Columbus Avenue in Syracuse. Our concept for the house will be a departure from traditional House Museum operation and management. It will be collaborative and have a strong public component, a strong academic component, and a strong revenue producing component. It must be sustainable and it must contribute to economic development, as well as the quality of life in this community. In that vein, we are developing our plan to operate the property as a center for the study of the Arts & Crafts movement and as a unique historic House Museum/Boutique Hotel. It will be a great example of how a small private nonprofit art & cultural organization can directly contribute to quality of life, historic preservation, historic property restoration, neighborhood revitalization and improvement, tourism, education, and economic development. It will educate the public about an amazing local contribution to history and design, promote local industry, and, at the same time, develop diversified revenue sources to cover the costs of OHA’s related operations, educational programming, and mission.
Historic perspective adds value – it makes everything more interesting and provides depth, substance, and meaning. It instills pride and helps create a determination to build and leave legacies that are worthy of our great heritage. It enhances judgment in planning our future and helps develop a more optimistic attitude about that future. Pride in place, determination to improve the present and optimism about the future all have their foundations in our past. We have always believed that our shared collective history is the foundation for our future together and we continue to remain as dedicated to that concept today as we have been for over 153 years.