Dannemora As soon as Pete Light heard the village offices were going to move to the old school, he was knocking on the door. He wanted to put his years of historical research and collecting out where they could be seen and appreciated.
He has three kids, and though they enjoy his collections, none are interested in inheriting and curating them.
“So I said to myself, what’s going to happen to this stuff?” said Light.
He went to the village mayor, and proposed a museum. He decided that when it was all said and done, the collection would belong to the village
“If I pass on tomorrow, what are we going to do, pack it up in boxes and pile it up in my kitchen?” he said. “I don’t want that to happen. I want it to be somewhere that people can enjoy it.”
It was a real labor of love for Light, and he had to do much of the work himself. Inside the repurposed elementary school classroom, he built a wall designed to evoke the old lumber pickets that surrounded the local prison in its early years. It divides the room into an exhibit highlighting the prison inside that wall and exhibits on the village outside it.
He had to do it on a low budget, too — $800.
“And I scrounged and I begged and I got every piece of material I could,” before digging into his village budget, he said.
He did get some very notable help though. He received some large donations from the now-passed Ursula Kaufman. Local student Kyle Lamora pitched in nearly every time Light asked him to. Eric Jarvis helped sandblast, paint and move the museum centerpiece, an antique soda-acid fire extinguisher from the Thayer Hose Company.
“It’s an unbelievable amount of steel,” said Light.