Slate Valley to display new exhibit

To celebrate immigrants from the Carpatho-Rusyn Mountains, the Slate Valley Museum will open a new exhibit in conjunction with this month’s First Friday on June 7.

“Preserving a Heritage, Building a Community: The Carpatho-Rusyn People of the Slate Valley” will look at the experiences of these people in this area at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century and how it influenced local culture.

This innovative exhibit explores the complete lives of immigrants, from their arrival into the valley to their daily lives and experiences in the slate industry as well as how they maintained their cultural identity while becoming American,” museum officials said.

During First Friday, the museum will also unveil its newly digitized oral histories, which will allow visitors to see and hear interviews with community members about their firsthand experiences.

This Carpatho-Rusyn theme will be present in the museum throughout the 2013 season.

Immigrants from Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and other countries in Eastern Europe came to the Slate Valley with little knowledge of the slate industry but with a desire to improve their lives. They filled the growing demand for laborers to work in the pits of quarries where the jobs were the most dangerous and the lowest paid, officials said in a release.

Promised good jobs and housing, many lived in tenements like those on River and Water Streets in Granville, unsympathetically labeled “Hun Alley,” while working for a mere 12 cents per hour. Most immigrants were young, single or recently married men who hoped to make their fortunes and return home, officials said. The wives who did follow their husbands or those married in America took in boarders to help with the family income. Women acquired more authority in their new lives because if they took in enough boarders, they could earn as much in a week as their husbands.

Across the river at the Pember, there will be food, music and art as well.

Watercolorist Betty O’Brien, who maintains a teaching facility in The Shirt Factory and offers a variety of watercolor classes and workshops, will be showing her work.  Dolores Thomson, who has been creating with clay for more than 20 years, will display her pottery, officials said. Her work has been shown in galleries and art fairs throughout upstate New York.

And Debby Loomis, a fabric artist, will be showing her quilted handbags.

First Friday at both museums is from 7 to 9 p.m.

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