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Potsdam Museum to feature exhibit on Clarkson family history |

Potsdam Museum to feature exhibit on Clarkson family history


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POTSDAM — The Potsdam Public Museum will host an exhibition displaying the history of the Clarkson family and Clarkson University.

The exhibit, which is still in progress, will include old photographs, diary entries, clothing, furniture and a telescope.

“We want to let people know who these people were,” said Museum Director Mimi Van Deusen.

Ms. Van Deusen said she hopes the exhibit, which she and museum aide Erin M. Cheney are curating, will be completed before mid-July in time for college alumni weekend. On the other side of the museum is a completely-curated exhibit featuring the history of SUNY Potsdam.

The task of setting up the Clarkson exhibit has proven itself to be quite complicated.

Because the dozens of Clarkson family members — many of whom married within the family — share similar names, Ms. Van Deusen said it was tedious to research and properly organize each person within the family tree.

“It probably took Erin and I about 200 hours to organize the family tree,” Ms. Van Deusen said.

“I’ve rewritten the biography cards about four times each,” Ms. Cheney added.

Even though there were many Clarksons in the area, little information of the family has survived or been made available publicly. Ms. Cheney said Clarkson University offered all of the historical information they had on the family to help assist the museum’s exhibit.

“They graciously let us look at everything they had on the family,” Ms. Cheney said. “But there were only like two small boxes.”

The idea for the exhibit began with a set of fine dinnerware china.

The set of Villeroy Boch china — which was made in Germany, somewhere between 1900 and 1930 — was used by the last of the Potsdam Clarkson family, Emilie Vallette Clarkson Moore and her husband William A. Moore, when they lived at 8 Cedar St., Potsdam. It was recently donated to the museum by Jean Castle DiMicco. Mrs. DiMicco grew up in Potsdam and knew Mrs. Moore personally, as her father was the chauffeur and gardener for Mrs. Moore.

“Then we thought we could create an entire exhibit from there,” Ms. Van Deusen said.

The exhibit also features the history of Clarkson University, then called “The Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial College of Technology.” The college’s namesake, Thomas S. Clarkson, died in a quarry accident in 1894. Three of his sisters, Elizabeth, Frederica and Lavinia Clarkson, founded the college in memory of their brother. Classes began in September 1896.

“Not a lot of people know why it was founded or how important the Clarkson family was,” Ms. Van Deusen said. “They were movers and shakers; philanthropists and humanitarians.”

Once the exhibit is completed, it will remain through Sept. 30.

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