The Sylvester Manor Archive, a rare collection of 10,000 primary documents, photographs and ephemera collected by the Sylvester family and descendants over 360 years, is the focus of a new exhibition opening on April 10, 2013 at the NYU Fales Special Collection and Library at New York University. Sylvester Manor: Land, Food, and Power on a New York Plantation, explores three centuries of the politics of food and changing land uses in colonial New York, illuminating the fascinating history of Sylvester Manor, where, for over three hundred years, its diverse inhabitants produced food for home use, regional consumption, and overseas export, viewed from the vantage point of a former slave plantation.
Curator Jennifer Anderson, an Atlantic World historian, Stony Brook University professor of history and member of the Sylvester Manor preservation guidelines team, interprets selections from the Sylvester archive to underscore the social, political, and environmental ramifications of our food sources—that where, how, and by whom our food is produced matters—giving new meaning to the maxim “we are what we eat.” Through the archive, the exhibition tells the story of the development, preservation, and revival of the Manor as a center of food production and the dynamic, at times contentious, power relations that shaped its changing land uses.
Today, Sylvester Manor is a thriving educational center for organic agriculture and working farm where New Yorkers are once again the recipients of the bounty of its land. Bennett Konesni, founder and creative director of the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm, represents the eleventh generation in a long line of family that have stewarded the property and is passionate about bringing the manor’s agricultural legacy and issues of fair labor full circle.
Jennifer Anderson shares and explores these issues of land use, food and labor, questioning how the lives of those living and working on the property were transformed as the Manor and its surroundings changed, what can be learned from its later history, from the on-going efforts to preserve it, and now, from the revival of its historic farm in light of new ideas about sustainable agriculture and social justice
Sylvester Manor: Land, Food, and Power on a New York Plantation
April 10 – July 23, 2013
Bobst Library, New York University
This exhibition is free and open to the public.
Gallery hours are 10 – 5, Monday – Friday