Notes from Fenimore Museum: Fenimore Art Museum originated as the New York State Historical Association, founded in 1899 by New Yorkers who were interested in promoting greater knowledge of the early history of the state. They hoped to encourage original research, to educate general audiences by means of lectures and publications, to mark places of historic interest with tablets or signs, and to start a library and museum to hold manuscripts, paintings and objects associated with the history of the state.
In 1939, Stephen Carlton Clark, offered the organization a new home int he village of Cooperstown. Clark, an avid collector, took an active interest in expanding the holdings of the Association and in 1944 donated Fenimore House, one of his family’s properties, to be used as a new headquarters and museum. The impressive neo-Georgian structure was built in 1930s on the site of James Fenimore Cooper’s early 19th century farmhouse on the shore of Otsego Lake, Coopers Glimmerglass.
Fenimore House was large enough to have both extensive exhibition galleries as well as an office and library space. The collections and programs continued to expand and a separate library building was constructed in 1968. In 1995 a new 18,000 square foot wing was added to the Fenimore House to accommodate the Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection which is one of the nations premier collections of American Indian Art. In 1999 in recognition of our world class collections, we renamed the Fenimore House to Fenimore Art Museum.
Fenimore Art Museum is closely affiliated with its sister organization, The Farmers’ Museum.