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We have moved to our new location within the Tompkins Center for History and Culture at 110 North Tioga Street. The exhibit hall opens May 10. Check back soon for more information.

 Below you will find a sampling of past rotating exhibitions.

Media Folder

The History Center has a variety of permanent and rotating exhibitions.
We have several permanent exhibit installations:

Check out our children’s hands-on space Life in the 1890s. Put on period clothing, sit at Eightsquare School House desks and write on old slates, use an antique cash register. Learn about life in the late 19th century through play.

Familiar Faces is a wonderful collection of photographs of interesting people. Find Ithaca’s first African American policeman and Hungarian immigrants; a notorious murderer and Ezra Cornell; and many more, all offering a diverse look at the people who came before us in Tompkins County.

Our Story – A Timeline of Tompkins County History tells the story of the county from geological times to the 21st century in words and images. Click here to view "Our Story", a permanent exhibition highlighting a timeline of Tompkins County.

Our Community celebrates the organizations and institutions that show the diversity of Tompkins County people at work and play, and in service to each other.

Below you will find a sampling of past rotating exhibitions.



The Webbs: A Tompkins County Family

May 1st, 2018 to July 1st, 2018

In honor of our county's bicentennial in 2017 The History Center is celebrating one long-established family from Caroline, the Webbs and their descendants, who exemplify the strength, character, and dedication to family and community that highlight the best of Tompkins County. Peter and Phyllis Webb were both born into slavery sometime in the 1790s and brought to New York as children. Phyllis (she had no last name) was born in North Carolina. Peter Webb, who was born around 1792 in Virginia, was brought here by John James Speed, a slave merchant who settled in Caroline on Level Green Road. Through tremendous hard work and perseverance Peter bought his freedom in 1818; Phyllis would be freed when slavery was abolished in New York State in 1827.

View the online exhibit here.

The Many Names of Fall Creek:

November 28th, 2017 to March 31st, 2018


Names tell a story. Known to the Cayugas as Nogaene, Fall Creek flows past Tompkins County places whose names acknowledge the many connections we have with the creek--from business success to technical triumph, and even personal tragedies.

Explore the Fall Creek sub-watershed and its various place names using the interactive map created by Karen Edelstein.

The exhibition is co-sponsored by:
Tompkins County Bicentennial Commission and Names on the Land--Tompkins County.

The Altered and Preserved Landscape:

May 5th, 2017 to September 9th, 2017

This exhibit by students at Tompkins Cortland Community College examines the local landscape and is part of the larger celebration of the 200-year anniversary of Tompkins County. The artworks explore the visual and functional conditions of Tompkins County over time by drawing on primary source materials from The History Center. What makes Tompkins County a unique place is answered, in part, by the growth and changes to the area through geological time, human activity and social conditions. Using contemporary and historical images and texts this show investigates two questions: Why does the county look like it does and from what era did certain built features originate. The projects were created by traveling back in time though rich documents including historical photographs, texts, letters and paintings in The History Center archives. In addition to research in the collections students went into the community to photograph and gather visual data, to investigate how the unique local landscape has impacted the development of the county. In all, the show offers a look at the altered and preserved landscape of Tompkins County and ultimately provides a few glimpses of what gives this wonderful area a sense of place. We thank the Tompkins County Bicentennial commission for their support, Rod Howe, Executive Director and Donna Eschenbrenner, Director of Archives and Research Services for their guidance, and Tompkins Cortland Community College for their encouragement of this year-long project.

Harry Littell
Keith Millman
Christine Shanks
Mark Grimm
Cynthia Kjellander-Cantú


Tour the Six Mile Creek Watershed exhibit produced by Kim Haines-Eitzen, Susan C. Larkin and Timothy Larkin.

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