Over its 100 years of existence, the Cazenovia Public Library has acquired a number of collections through generous donations. Objects of all sorts have gravitated to the Library, which has long served as our community’s “attic,” and, by default, its historical society. With the help of a Museum Committee, comprised of local professionals, these collections have been curated into various exhibits on display in the original Library building. The museum is open during regular library hours; there is no admission fee.

Cabinet of Curiosities

Popularized in the 18th Century, Cabinets of Curiosities were displays compiled by collectors, in which they exhibited trinkets and antiquities relating to natural history, geology, ethnography, archaeology, relics, and art. These Cabinets of Curiosities were precursors to the museums we visit today. The Library has taken a sampling from various collections to create its own Cabinet of Curiosities. This display highlights notable and unique items from our natural history, geological and ethnographic collections.

Natural History Collection: Interesting minerals, fossils, dried sea creatures, birds, bird eggs and other such objects comprise this exhibit. The birds and eggs, mounted in a large late-19th century case in a manner typical of the times, were collected in the 19th century by Robert Hubbard. The collection includes an example of the extinct Passenger Pigeon and a Quetzal of Central America, whose long, brilliant green tail feathers were precious to the Maya and Aztecs of Mexico (rulers donned feather-adorned headdresses). The minerals, as well as the sea creatures, were collected in the 19th and early 20th centuries by a number of Cazenovians.

Ethnographia: A number of diverse cultures are represented. There is a strong grouping of Native American objects, some of local origin, and others from cultures spanning the continent from the East Coast to Alaska. There are also material culture objects from Africa, New Guinea and other areas around the world.


Opened in May 2016, the WonderCabinet explores the art of display in a traditional Cabinet of Curiosity. Objects from the Library’s eclectic collection, along with short profiles of notes collectors, are presented to encourage further exploration. The nineteenth-century cabinet, likely part of the library’s original furnishings and made locally, has been refitted for its new function. Visitors are encouraged to open the drawers, which hold objects picked for their historical, scientific or artistic interest.


 Exploring Egypt 

In 1894, Library benefactor Robert James Hubbard embarked on a nine month Grand Tour with his son. During an extended stay in Egypt, Hubbard collected a number of artifacts, including a complete mummy and its case, several masks, breastplates and sandals, ushabtis, scarabs and other objects. He purchased this material with the specific intention of creating a museum upstairs in the original Library building. Hubbard’s museum has since moved to a specially designed room on the ground floor, which, thanks to grants from the Central New York Community Foundation, the Library’s Friends Association and the Robert Constable Trust, has been updated to include an electronic touch-screen presentation on Hubbard’s trip down the Nile.

This display also features Souvenirs of the Grand Tour. Today, the transport of artifacts and antiquities is highly regulated. However, during the Victorian era, Hubbard and other Cazenovia travelers returned home with suitcases full of precious souvenirs, including stones and mortar from the Great Pyramids, pieces of a fresco from Pompeii, stones from Hadrian’s Villa, and pieces of tile from the Alhambra. They also collected natural history specimens such as seahorses, fragments of lava, and olive leaves from the Garden of Gethsemane. Many of these objects were carefully labeled and boxed, and a number can be seen in the Library’s Egyptian Gallery.

Every year, hundreds of area students attend field trips to the Library to learn about the collections from our Museum Educators. Two programs are offered: one featuring our Cabinet of Curiosities, and another highlighting our Egyptian Collection. If you are interested in arranging a school tour, please visit our Educational Programs & Tours page.


Treasures from the Attic

On display in the local history section of the Museum, this exhibit features 19th and early 20th century children’s clothing and toys from the Museum attic.  Included in the exhibit are two christening gowns, a child’s coat, dress and footwear, a beautiful children’s tea set, and a collection of whimsical Alice in Wonderland porcelain figurines.  These items were donated by local Cazenovia families; we are proud to share such treasured heirlooms.


 Fashion Takes Flight

Inspired by the Museum’s extensive collection of stuffed birds, Fashion Takes Flight tells the history of the use of feathers in fashion, examining society’s participation in and response to this phenomenon. Featured topics include the formation of the Audubon Society, the creation of ostrich farms, and the lives of the tenement workers responsible for creating these highly sought after accessories.

Fashion Takes Flight in Cazenovia: Featuring hats on loan from a local family, as well as photographs of prominent Cazenovia women wearing extravagantly feathered hats, this exhibit demonstrates the way in which the fashion trends of the large cities found their way to Cazenovia.



 Local History

Objects of Local Importance: Over the years, the Library has accumulated many objects of significance to our local history. A collection of five patent models created in the Cazenovia area was recently donated by Ann and Alan Rothschild. A collection of locks manufactured locally by the American Lock Company (bought out after three years of operation in Cazenovia by the Yale Lock Co. of Stamford, Connecticut) was donated some years ago by Don Haley, Cazenovia’s long-time resident locksmith. A number of artifacts owned and used by the settler generation, including lanterns, carriage foot warmers, tools, etc., are included in the collection.


Art Collection

The Library’s art collection has been assembled entirely through donation.

Much of the collection of local painter Dwight Williams’ work, including some 600 pastels, drawings, and oil paintings (a large percentage of which depict local scenes) was given by Richard Hubbard, a long-time supporter of the artist. Other generous donors have contributed major works by Williams.  Williams (1856-1932) painted in Cazenovia, Europe, and Mexico, and taught at a number of art academies. His best-known student was Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928), who achieved national and international acclaim. Davies’ work is represented by one piece in the collection, donated by his sister in honor of Dwight Williams.

William Boardman (1817-1895) was born in Cazenovia and entered its Seminary at the age of 13. A somewhat primitive painting of Cazenovia’s main street is attributed to the artist at that early age. By 1841, Boardman was painting portraits and moving around the country. He returned to Cazenovia in 1848, set up a studio on Albany Street, and produced several commissioned paintings. One of these, a view of the Village square, was commissioned by Boardman’s landlord, General Hough, and was given to the Library by Hough’s grandchildren. A view of Cazenovia Lake from Owera Point was painted in 1883 during another of Boardman’s visits home.

The American Impressionist Frank Townsend Hutchins (1869 – 1937) of Canandaigua, New York is represented in the collection by a landscape, circa 1890.

Charles Welsch (1828-1904), a Geman-born painter, lived in the Village and taught at the Cazenovia Seminary from 1851-1854. He went on to live, work and teach in Cincinnati, Frankfort, and Rome. While in Rome, Welsch’s most notable student was John Singer Sargent, who worked in his studio as a young teenager. The Library owns one of Welsch’s European landscapes and a pencil sketch of Cazenovia Lake. Additional works are housed at Lorenzo, once the seat of the Ledyard family in Cazenovia, and now a New York State Historic Site. The Library’s collection also includes a portrait of New York State Governor Dewitt Clinton, the man responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal, painted by George Kasson Knapp (1822-1910) of Syracuse in 1864.

The collection’s more modern pieces include photographs by Cazenovia photographer Rita Hammond (1924-1999) and the works of other contemporary photographers and painters.