OHA has been collecting documents, photographs, and artwork since before the organization’s official inception in 1863. The 3-D museum artifact collection is comprised of over 100,000 objects; the 2-D archival collection is comprised of over 1 million civilian & military documents including maps & atlases, architectural drawings, business & industry records, photographs, and more. Collections and Archives are maintained by OHA’s full-time Curator of Collections and Archivist, with the assistance of many volunteers and interns. OHA collections are at the core of the organization’s mission to share important local history with the community and beyond. They serve to remind Onondaga County residents of impressive legacies such as technological innovation, human initiative, and social change.
Particular strengths of the 3-D collection are related to Onondaga County’s economic and industrial history and include typewriters, lanterns, washing equipment, candles, caskets, brewery objects, and stained glass. In 2009, OHA acquired the Syracuse China archive and historic china collection, encompassing over thirty exhibit cases featuring rare pieces from the 138 year old company. The clothing collection includes 19th and 20th century men’s, women’s & children’s garments, including the Harvey Baldwin deer hide coat decorated with Native American beadwork, dresses from the House of Worth, wedding dresses from the late 18th to 20th centuries, and many military uniforms. The archival collection boasts the General Association Document drafted by the NY colonial government in May 1775; a copy of the petition to establish Onondaga County in 1794; a reward poster seeking the return of Harriet Powell, an escaped slave in 1839; a full-plate daguerreotype photograph of Frederick Douglass, c. 1845, and many other locally and nationally significant civilian and military documents.
Having robust 2D & 3D collections enables OHA staff to create exhibits, write articles, and offer educational and entertaining programs that attract diversified local visitors, as well as those from out of town.