New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.


The Iroquois, or Haudenosaunee, which means the “People of the Longhouse," inhabited the Upper Hudson and Mohawk River valleys before the arrival of European settlers. Traditional Iroquois territory extended from Schoharie Creek through the Mohawk Valley to the Genesee River in western New York. There is some debate regarding when the Iroquois Confederacy was established. Historians and archeologists agree that it was in existence by 1630 and possibly by 1536, but oral tradition of the Haudenosaunee state that the Confederacy was founded more than 1,000 years ago “on the last day that the green corn was ready.”

Going from east to west in what is today New York State, the original five nations were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. The Tuscarora Nation applied for and gained entrance to the League in the early 1700s. After the American Revolution, many moved to communities outside their original territory, but some Iroquois continue to live on their original lands. Although the Iroquois today live in seventeen communities, some great distances from each other, and while these seventeen communities have their own political structures and governing bodies, most Iroquois still consider themselves part of the Iroquois Confederacy.

Today, Iroquois artists still make traditional objects such as clay pots, pack baskets, and cradleboards. Making these things keeps the knowledge and ideas of their ancestors alive. Mohawk craftsman Preston Jacobs lives and teaches in Kahnawake, the Mohawk Reserve outside Montreal. He constructs and carves traditional cradleboards while his daughter Kaherawaks paints the designs. The cradleboard illustrated here was painted by his wife Nancy.

Cradle Board

Preston and Nancy Jacobs, Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada


Wood, paint

Courtesy of Iroquois Indian Museum, 98:131

Da Hoon Gu Gwa A Gwa, or Lacrosse

Thomas J. Dorsey (1920-1993) | 1942

Medium: Gouache on composition board

Dimensions: 20 1/8 H x 16 W

Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase

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