The Capital Region in 50 Objects

SEPTEMBER 19, 2015—APRIL 3, 2016

It’s not often that you see a video game and a chamber pot together in an exhibition. It’s even more unusual when both are highlighted as historic artifacts. But the Capital Region of New York has such a varied history that this pairing, along with forty-eight other items, will partner together to tell their stories in The Capital Region in 50 Objects.

Each region of the country has its own distinctive history and culture that set it apart from others. The Capital Region of New York—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties— is no different. So what is it that gives the Capital Region its identity? What historic events, people, ideas, and objects have shaped its character? And even more challenging, is it possible to represent the Capital Region’s distinctiveness in fifty objects? The Albany Institute began asking these same questions more than three years ago when it sent surveys to nearly sixty museums and cultural organizations throughout the region. Through partnership with the Times Union, the Institute was also able to ask readers to submit their ideas based on such themes as Arts, Sports, & Entertainment; Science & Technology; Politics; Industry, Commerce, & Transportation; Life & Society. Then, after reviewing the responses, a committee worked to select fifty topics to represent a diverse history of the region. Our new exhibition, The Capital Region in 50 Objects, will show the results of this collaborative project.

The process of selecting fifty objects to represent the diverse history of the region was not easy, but thanks to the participation of numerous museums, historical societies, business entities, and private individuals the Institute has been able to assemble fifty objects that tell an amazing story of the Capital Region over the past four hundred years. Some of the objects in the exhibition will be immediately recognized as Capital Region icons, such as Albany’s beloved Nipper, the RCA dog that looks down from his rooftop perch on Broadway. Other objects, such as the Witenagemot oak peace tree from Knickerbocker Historical Society in Schaghticoke, may be little known to visitors, but the old oak tree represents a profoundly important event that took place in 1676 with the formalization of a peace treaty among English colonists, Mohawks, Mohicans, and Hoosacs, all of whom inhabited the area around the junction of the Hudson and Hoosick Rivers.

What else is in the exhibition? Let’s just say you’ll find objects such as an early automobile and a ticket booth, two cannons and a rocket booster, plus much more. Come and see if your favorite objects made the list.

In addition to the exhibition, family programs, special lectures, and demonstrations will  broaden our appreciation of the Capital Region’s distinctive identity.


The Capital Region in 50 Objects was planned in partnership with the Times Union. This exhibition has been made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional funding has been provided by the New York Council for the Humanities and the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. 

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The Albany Institute wishes to thank the following lenders of objects and images for their participation in the exhibition:
Albany County Hall of Records
Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Bernard Brown
Nancy E. Carey Cassidy
Emma Dickson and the Rapp Road Historical Association
Dudley Observatory
Emma Willard School Archives
Empire State Aerosciences Museum
Empire State Plaza Art Collection, New York State Office of General Services
Fort Orange Club
Gary Gold
Grafton Community Library
David and Ruth Hoffman
Hudson Mohawk Industrial Gateway
Iroquois Indian Museum
William Kennedy
Knickerbocker Historical Society
Library of Congress
Manchester Metropolitan University Library, UK
Ralph McCann
Terry and Jack McEneny
Linda McLean
Metropolitan Museum of Art
MiSci (Museum of Innovation and Science)
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame
New York State Library
New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center
New York State Museum
Old Stone Fort Museum
Port of Albany
Private Collection
Rensselaer County Historical Society
Saratoga National Historical Park
Schenectady County Historical Society
Len Tantillo
Underground Railroad History Project
Vicarious Visions
Stewart Wagner
Yale University Art Gallery
Numerous individuals offered advice and assistance with the exhibition. The Albany Institute wishes to thank the following:
Maureen Aumand, Michael Barrett, Dan Beams, Keith Bennett, Amy Biancolli, Chris Boldiston, Stephanie Boydell, Rich Brustman, Elizabeth Carey Cassidy, Lawrence William Chakrin, PhD, Christian Collins, John Conway, Wendy Craney, Megan Daly, Starlyn D’Angelo, Jango Davis, Emma Dickson, Stacy Draper, Hunter Drews, Edison Tech Center, Chip Fasciana, Michelina T. Forte, Vince Forte, Jr., Christopher Frey, Danielle Godbout, Gary Gold, Barb Goldstein, Craig Gravina, Worth Gretter, Nancy Grivas, Paul Grondahl, Matt Hart, David Hauber, Josh Hauck, Richard Hendrick, Justin Holzer, Ashley Hopkins-Benton, David and Ruth Hoffman, Estella Hovnanian, Chris Hunter, Nancy Iannucci, Stana Iseman, Tim Kane, Lawrence Kelley, William Kennedy, Erin Kinal, Mark Klein, Christopher Kline, Stuart Lehman, Jennifer Lemak, Barbara Maggio, Karen Mahar, Larry McArthur, Ralph McCann, Barbara McDonald, Jack McEneny,, Linda McLean, P. K. Miller, Samantha C. Milner, Scott Moore, Christopher Morton, Steve Muller, Holli Murphy, Paul, Nance, Michael Oatman, Joanne Walthaer Owens & Family, Will Pausley, Fabienne Powell, Al Quaglieri, Mary Ann Randall, Carol Reid, Jennifer Richard-Morrow, Suzanne Roberson, Dana Rudolph, Lisa Seymour, Kathy Sheehan, Stephanie Shultes, Jeffrey Singer, Andy Spence, Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, Len Tantillo, Victoria Tokarowski, Anne Tyrrell, Brad Utter, Christine Valosin, Charles Ver Streaten, Stewart Wagner, Carol Werner, Geoffrey Williams, Mary Zawacki, Emily Zimmerman