Saturday, July 21, the Yates County History Center will celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the opening of the Oliver House Museum. The public is invited to attend a ceremony and ice cream social at 11 a.m. at the museum at 200 Main St.in Penn Yan.
The first museum curator, Arnold Potter, a descendant of followers of the Jemima Wilkinson, the Universal Publick Friend, spent countless hours arranging and cataloging hundreds of items in preparation for the Oliver House Museum’s opening in 1948. Up until that time, most of the historical items which gave visual proof of clothing and implements used by Yates County pioneers were scattered around the county. Some of the historically important articles of value collected by the Historical Society over the years were stored in the basement of the Penn Yan Public Library, which provided little or no opportunity for public access.
When the village of Penn Yan accepted the gift of Carrie Oliver’s 1852 home, rooms on the second floor were allotted to the Yates County Historical and Genealogical Society (now known as the Yates County History Center). The entire collection of historical objects was moved to these rooms and public access was limited to a few hours a week.
The house was once occupied by the Olivers - a family of physicians. Two generations of doctors lived in the home. Carrie, the last member of the family, died in 1942, leaving the house and its contents to the Village of Penn Yan for perpetual use as a museum. The Yates County History Center has preserved the Oliver family collections of household furnishings, accessories, books, medical items, and memorabilia.
Today’s Oliver House Museum has evolved into an impressive community museum encompassing the entire home, which is open four days a week. It is the cornerstone building of the Yates County History Center complex. The Yates County History Center encompasses three museum buildings: The Oliver House Museum, The Underwood Museum next door on Chapel Street, (owned by the L. Caroline Underwood Trust) and the Scherer Carriage House behind the Underwood Museum, which is the permanent home of the premier exhibit “Jemima Wilkinson: The Publick Universal Friend.”
Executive Director Tricia Noel encourages local residents who may have visited as a child, to come back to the museum. “Our exhibits are changed on a regular basis to show off our collections of over 50,000 artifacts and 5,000 photographic images. Part of our mission is to interpret the history of Yates County and one way to do that is through our exhibits.” This summer, visitors can enjoy Steaming on Keuka, Yates County in the Great War, Military Heroes, and Hear Our One Voice Suffrage exhibits in addition to the permanent exhibits.
Permanent exhibits include five Oliver Family rooms, Miss L. Caroline Underwood’s collection, the Native American room, and The Publick Universal Friend exhibit.
The museums are open to the public Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Oliver
House Museum also hosts Saturday hours during July and August from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free and donations are encouraged. The first floor is handicapped accessible in all museum buildings.
The Yates County History Center hosts events year round. For more information visit www.yatespast.org.