When Tropical Storm Irene flooded the region in 2011, one of the most iconic images of the event was the raging Mohawk River not just running around historic Guy Park Manor in Amsterdam, but through it. Inside was the Walter Elwood Museum, and sadly, the flood carried with it much of the collection inside, most of which was irreplaceable.
Since that time, many of the museum's artifacts have been housed in a former auto dealership in Amsterdam. Walter Elwood officials have spent the past year and a half trying to salvage what's left of the collection and raising money to find a new place to display it.
Last week, the museum found a new home -- part of the former Noteworthy complex on Church Street in Amsterdam. The Elwood board of directors closed on the property last week and will soon begin transferring operations there.
The move not only signifies the end of a long and difficult saga for the Elwood, it also serves as a do-over for the museum. And the new space has the potential to help it grow into an educational and cultural operation of which this city can be proud.
In addition to providing more space to display its collection, the building's location means the Elwood artifacts will be safer from the elements, decreasing the chances for further destruction should another massive weather event like Irene happen. In addition, the facility provides the museum with room to offer more educational opportunities, such as workshops for youths and a spot for high school and college students who want to conduct historical research. The building also affords the museum a chance to rent out additional space for non-profits or smaller companies, giving Elwood a badly needed revenue stream.
The move is also beneficial to the city because it prevents Amsterdam from having to deal with yet another vacant building. Although it's a shell of its glorious past, the Noteworthy complex is one of the historic structures in Amsterdam worth saving, and turning it into a cultural and educational center, along with housing smaller companies, is a perfect use for the building.
The move doesn't solve all of the challenges still facing the Walter Elwood Museum. The organization is in need of funding to transform its part of the complex into a more museum-like atmosphere, and to restore many of the programs lost when Irene tore through. Since the flooding, the museum has received support from all over the state and beyond -- and from several members of the local community -- and we hope a combination of needed funding from the state and private contributions will keep it afloat.
The building purchase is also a testament to the determination of the Elwood board and its executive director, Ann Peconie, who refused to give up and worked tirelessly to keep museum going. We look forward to seeing what happens next.