GALLERY TALK Uncovering the Albany Wampum Factory

Public Program, Member Events

Renée Ridgway, artist
Paul Huey, retired archaeologist at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

In his discussion with Ridgway, Huey will present the discoveries during Albany’s tercentennial year (1986), which also marked 300 years since the establishment of the city’s first almshouse. The dig was carried out at Norton Street during the construction of the new KeyCorp building and among the found artifacts were many fragments of broken clamshells and conch shells. Soon thereafter it was realized that these shells were the debris from wampum bead manufacture, along with partially finished beads that had been broken during the production process. A later analysis of all the artifacts indicated that during the 18th century the almshouse had become a virtual ‘wampum factory’ (, where the occupants of the almshouse were kept busy with the painstaking process of making the tiny beads from shells that were used as legal tender.

Furthermore, Huey will share material from the Fort Orange excavation, which occurred in the winter of 1970-1971 and aroused new interest in the history and archeology of the colonial Dutch. At the Schuyler Flatts excavations (1971 and 1974) there was also evidence of beadmaking from conch shells and Huey will share the artifacts along with some of his recent findings.


Thursday, May 11 • 6:00pm - 7:00pm

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