Olive Free Library

Donald F. & Edna G. Bishop Museum Room

Purpose of the Collection

The Local History Museum and Special Collections of the Olive Free Library serve to collect artifacts directly related to the history of the Town of Olive and its inhabitants, with concentrations in the time of the town’s settlement through the completion of the Ashokan Reservoir and early 20th Century.

Current Exhibit:

A Town Shaped by Water: 200 Years of Olive History

The culmination of six months of research, collected stories, and donated items, and curated by Olive Free Library archivist Melissa McHugh, the exhibit includes photos, ephemera, and colorful stories collected through oral histories of several Town of Olive’s notables.

The exhibit includes a touch-screen display that allows visitors to access the photographic archive of the Town through the New York Heritage Digital Collections. Scannable QR codes throughout the exhibit supplement photos and displays with  oral histories beautifully recorded and produced by Brett Barry of the Kaatscast Podcast.

A large four-panel display will tell the Town’s history in four parts, beginning with A Town is Born, featuring pre-Town of Olive, pre-reservoir history, including the Indigenous people who lived here. Part Two, The Reservoir Becomes a Reality, and Part Three, A Feat of Engineering Brilliance, respectively, includes photos of the reservoir’s construction. Reimagined: A Community Moves Forward is Part Four and will include information about the fire department, the Civilian  Conservation Corps, Onteora, the first Olive Day in 1973 and the recent construction of the Rail Trail.

The exhibit also includes a small screen installation of Margaret Cogswell’s artwork Ashokan Fugues, which features photographs of the reservoir and incorporates narratives from Catskill communities that lost their land by eminent domain to NYC for the building of the Ashokan Reservoir.

Display cases feature ephemera and artifacts generously donated or loaned by local people from their families, as well as documents and objects found in attics, and items in the library’s and Town’s archive.

The Olive Free Library is grateful to Frank and Peggy Almquist and Eric Winchell for their generous donations, which made this exhibit possible. Their support in bringing this exhibit to life and continuing to keep the history of the Town of Olive alive is immeasurable.

We would also like to thank the following community members who donated their time, loaned or donated items, and helped make this exhibit the treasure that it is: Janette Kahil, Florence Giuliano, Marty Giuliano, Kate McGloughlin, Donald Beesmer, Brett Barry, Raecine Shurter, John & Barbara Parete, John Bierhorst, Dawn Giuditta, Amanda Winne, Gene Sorbellini, Delia Adams, Rodney Sage, and Margaret Cogswell. Your contributions are greatly appreciated.

This exhibit would not have been possible without the support of our community. Thank you!

You can visit our new exhibit during regular library hours or visit the virtual exhibit here.


The Consolidated Digital Collection of the History of the Town of Olive

We have partnered with the Historical Society of the Town of Olive, The Ashokan Center, Brunel Sculpture Park, and the Town of Olive on an extensive online collection that provides materials that give you a clearer picture of life in the Town of Olive before, during, and after the building of the Ashokan Reservoir.

The Consolidated Digital Collection of the History of the Town of Olive is supported by federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the New York State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS; imls.gov) and administered by Southeastern NY Library Resources Council.

Research Request

Our archivist can provide reference assistance via email or by phone regarding the contents of and access to our collections as well as brief answers to factual questions; however, we do not have the resources to do extensive research for our patrons. If a question requires extensive time, we may suggest arranging for an on-site appointment. Please email museum@olivefreelibrary.org with your request and allow a minimum of 2 weeks for our archivist to complete it.


Finding Aids

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