The Van Rensselaer-Rankin family amassed several lifetimes and several households worth of personal papers and possessions during their 176 years of occupancy at Cherry Hill. In April of 1963 when Emily Rankin, the last surviving family member, passed away, the house and its contents became the Historic Cherry Hill Collection -- a completely intact assemblage of one family's material possessions spanning five generations and over three hundred years of American history.
Today, the Historic Cherry Hill collection totals over 20,000 objects and 30,000 manuscript documents, all directly connected to the Van Rensselaer-Rankin occupants of Cherry Hill. Though vast, and sometimes mundane, the collection contains important components that further our knowledge of the past.
Although the collection was amassed over a long period with the dual motives of accumulating family history and throwing away as little as possible, the resulting collection contains some very rare and fine examples of American material culture. In addition, the family kept their own meticulous records regarding the history and provenance of individual objects as well as records of changes they made including furniture movement, placement, restoration, and decoration. Often, objects have a web of associated tangential material such as notes, photographs, letters, family lore and old parts that were removed and replaced but never disposed of.
A wealth of information for scholars of social history and material culture, Cherry Hill is a unique resource because of the well-documented provenance of its very non-traditional collection. Historic Cherry Hill proudly cares for the family's ENTIRE estate from the lowliest toothbrush to the rarest 18th century silver tankard and everything in between.
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Identify And Describe The Management Organization
Historic Cherry Hill encourages the public to connect emotionally with one Albany family's response to change, in order to gain critical perspective on the past and present.
The museum accomplishes its mission by developing engaging programs and publications based on the site's amazingly intact collections of 20,000 objects, 30,000 manuscripts, 7,500 textiles, 5,000 books and 3,000 photographs.
Historic Cherry Hill was provisionally chartered by the New York State Education Department in 1964; its Absolute Charter was granted in 1969. The house was listed on the National Register in 1971, and the museum first achieved Accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM) in 1984.
Throughout its history, HCH has continued to strengthen its commitment to its mission of preservation, research and interpretation. The staff now includes three full-time professionals, six part-time support personnel, and 50 volunteers from throughout the Capital Region. Through institution-wide efforts, HCH has received local, regional and national recognition for its volunteer and education programs, exhibits and publications.
In recent years, the museum has published a highly acclaimed 4th grade educational teaching unit (the publication won an Award of Merit from the American Association for State & Local History), built a 3,500 square foot collections care and research facility, and developed a tour called "The Rankins of Cherry Hill: Struggling with the Loss of Their World," reviewed in the Journal of American History.
Suggested Further Reading
Murder at Cherry Hill, by Louis C. Jones
On the Score of Hospitality: Selected Receipts of a Van Rensselaer Family, Albany, New York, 1785-1835 (a Historic Cherry Hill Recipe Collection), Compiled and edited by Jane Carpenter Kellar, Ellen Miller and Paul Stambach
Cherry Hill: The History and Collections of a Van Rensselaer Family, by Roderic H. Blackburn
Tours Are Offered
Site is Child-friendly
Site is Pet-friendly