The History Center in Tompkins County enjoys collaborating with the Wharton Studio Museum (WSM) as they work towards their permanent museum location in Stewart Park, the location of the Wharton Brothers Film studio in the 1910's. In it's heyday Ithaca was a mecca of the silent movie scene, and the WSM organization's mission is to preserve and raise awareness about this regions integral additions to the American film industry.
The History Center has two permanent exhibits in the Tompkins Center for History & Culture curated by WSM that are on display for the public. There is the Silent Star Hallway on the walkway to the Cornell Local Research Library recognizing a number of silent movie stars who starred in films shot in Tompkins County, and one of our exhibit towers in the Exhibit Hall is dedicated to the history of silent movies in Ithaca, although the display itself changes regularly. We also have our Tommy Plane on display which due to some unique structural characteristics, we believe had a starring role in A Romance of the Air filmed in 1918 by the Wharton Brothers.
Wharton Studio Museum’s mission to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American filmmaking drives the organization to broaden awareness — locally, regionally and nationally — of this unique history through programming of all kinds. Also central to our mission is WSM's plan to develop the Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center in the historic Wharton Studio building in Stewart Park, one of a handful of silent film studios still standing in the country.
In 2009, Ithaca Motion Picture Project (as the organization was then called) incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. Four years later, wanting to include the word "museum" in its name, IMPP applied for and was granted a Provisional Museum Charter from the NYC Education Department’s Board of Regents and officially became Wharton Studio Museum (WSM). Annually WSM produces Silent Movie Under the Stars; Silent Movie Month; a film festival for youth called Silents Roar! and collaborates on screenings, exhibits, presentations, workshops and educational outreach with Cornell Cinema, The History Center, Ithaca College’s Park School, Cornell Costume and textile Collections,Tompkins County Public Library, Cinemapolis and a host of other cultural and educational entities.. The Provisional Museum Charter will be renewed in this year -- 2018.
Wharton Studio Museum is a founding partner of the Tompkins Center for History and Culture (TCHC), which opened in May 2019 on the Ithaca Commons in the historic Tompkins Trust Co. Building. The opening of the TCHC marks the first time that WSM has its own dedicated exhibit space.
Additionally, WSM is working to develop the Wharton Studio building and has just completed Re-envisioning the Wharton Studio Building: Transforming an Ithaca Landmark, a planning and design study that proposes an exciting vision to develop the historic building, scenically located by the shores of Cayuga Lake, into the Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center. Renovations and improvements to the building’s exterior, the creation of galleries with exhibits on film history and park history in its north-facing interior and a landscaped seating and gathering area by the lake and Cayuga Waterfront Trail will transform the building and surrounding landscape into the park’s cultural and recreational hub. The Wharton Studio Museum and Park Center — a centerpiece of the park’s original “historic core” -- will enhance and improve the park for the benefit of the community and also help promote heritage tourism in the region.
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