Gilsonfest: The Exceptional Journey of Alexander Gilson
Stevenson Library at Bard College
This digital presentation was produced by students in a Bard College course entitled The Window at Montgomery Place, taught by Professor Myra Young Armstead during the spring of 2019. As a combined History and Experimental Humanities course, the class provided students with the opportunity to think creatively and artistically of ways to use visual electronic media technologies to present historical narratives. Using Alexander Gilson's life as a reference, the images address the themes of slavery, gardening at Montgomery Place, business and property ownership, and family/community connections.
Food Microbiology: Cider Making
This fall 2019 biology course taught by Gabriel Perron is an Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences offering. The course explores different concepts in food microbiology, environmental sciences, and biochemistry associated with the process of cider making at Montgomery Place Orchards. At the beginning of the course, students learn how to best pick apples throughout the harvest season based on their chemical properties and how to produce sweet cider in aseptic conditions. Students then learn how to harness and characterize the microbial life associated with fermentation to favor the production of natural cider in a commercial capacity. Back in the lab, students learn to monitor the safe production of cider by conducting different assays that are commonly used in state-mandated analytical laboratories. In addition to the practical aspects of the course, students also engage in discussion regarding the societal issues associated with cider making and food safety in general both locally and internationally.
The Curiosity Cabinet
The Curiosity Cabinet class, taught by Associate Professor of Art History Susan Merriam, meets regularly in the basement of the mansion at Montgomery Place to study some of the fascinating objects in the collection, which boasts well over 8,000 items. Students have been researching objects that illuminate the historical phenomenon of the curiosity cabinet. These collections of oddities, as small as a box or as large as a room, are precursors to the modern museum. Students are becoming familiar with the collections, learning about collections management, and doing original research. An exhibition of Montgomery Place objects and student research will take place at Stevenson Library over the winter, with an opening reception on December 10 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Toward an Ethical Imagination: Gilsonfest
Gilsonfest was a Bard College–led collaboration including Historic Red Hook, the Dutchess County Historical Society, and the Red Hook Quilters, funded by the Lumina Foundation, that focused on the life of Alexander Gilson (c. 1824–89). Gilson was an African American who labored for 50 years at Montgomery Place, eventually becoming the head gardener. Bard students in Professor Myra Young Armstead's spring 2019 course The Window at Montgomery Place, an Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences (ELAS) offering, conducted historical research and assisted in developing the exhibition in partnership with historians and Bard staff.
Spring Sculpture Exhibition: Steel and Scale Remarks
Professor Arthur Gibbons’s spring sculpture class, Steel, presents their work in an exhibition titled Steel and Scale Remarks. The work was on view on the grounds of Montgomery Place through July 2019. Artists created and installed site-specific works throughout the Montgomery Place grounds, including in trees and water features. The inspiration for these steel sculptures came from a study of Montgomery Place’s collection of 19th-century outdoor furniture and sculpture, which was on display concurrently with the student exhibition.
The Hudson Valley Apple Project
Over two weeks during the 2017 winter break, five Bard students in Experimental Humanities conceived, designed, and built an interactive website that includes a database of more than 800 cultivars grown in New York State, including about 60 varieties grown in the orchards on Bard’s Montgomery Place Campus. The students enriched their project, connecting it to place and their experience, by building relationships with local historians at Historic Red Hook as they worked in their archives, as well as a community of Dutchess County apple growers, informally interviewing them on visits to their farms. Funding for this project was made possible through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and from Bard's Center for Civic Engagement (CCE).
The Window at Montgomery Place
This student-curated exhibit, which opened in the Red Hook Village Hall in December 2017, provided an overview of the development and management of the Montgomery Place property, from its beginnings as a nursery and working farm to a pleasure ground for its elite residents and their peers. Special emphasis was given to the laborers who enabled the estate's business operations, maintained its landscape features, and therefore facilitated the creation of an American antebellum aristocracy. This project was part of Professor Myra Young Armstead's Engaged Liberal Arts and Sciences course taught in collaboration with Bard's Center for Civic Engagement.