The Memory Project


2021 is the 85th anniversary of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. As the oldest operating museum in Auburn and the representative of Cayuga County’s history and cultural heritage, we are using our anniversary year to reflect on how we serve our community as a space for your memory. Museums are fundamentally places to remember: to see an image or a sentence, to feel or taste or smell something that ties our work to a moment in your memory. Memory itself shapes who we are as individuals, communities, and even as a broader human race, and museums are a major part of shaping how we remember moments and individuals. Recognizing that it is a huge undertaking to represent all of our community’s memory, we have created a three-part exhibition series that will focus on different areas of memory. Throughout the year, you will see rotating exhibits exploring the history, art, science, impact, process and so much more regarding how we remember.

Welcome to The Memory Project!

Part 1: Processing the Past: Photography as Cultural Memory (March 3-June 5)

Processing the Past explores the ways that photographs shape our memory. When photography was invented in the 19th century, it revolutionized memory. Beforehand, the capturing of images was reliant on highly skilled painters and literary or oral descriptions from person to person. For the first time, people could see a moment in time captured perfectly!

When you visit Processing the Past, you will be immersed in historic images of Auburn, and we mean this literally! As you view these captured moments from the past, the images will be brought to life with exhibit objects that will walk you through what you would see or experience in these historic spaces. Perhaps you will remember one of these objects, or remember when one of these buildings still existed in downtown Auburn. What do you remember about that building? Who were you with when you purchased that item? These are some of the questions you will ask as you process these captured moments of the past.


Part II: Flashbulb: Experiencing Memory (June 12 – November 13)

Flashbulb memories are a kind of collective memory, usually involving news events where one can vividly picture the moment indefinitely. In this exhibit, you will be taken back in time through the decades, the galleries staged to look like living spaces through time as you experience memories of these decades firsthand. For instance, let us transport you to a living room in 1969. You are four years old, and your parents sit you down in front of the television to watch Neil Armstrong set foot upon the moon, a legendary, “one giant leap for mankind.” You are young, but you distinctly remember the emotion of the moment and the recognition that you are one of millions of people watching the exact same instance play out. This is what it means to experience a flashbulb memory.

We invite you to immerse yourself in the memories of our past, unpack how they changed society, and share your memories and hopes for the future as you explore decades of living memory and examine just why these moments shape us down to our very biology.

Buzz Aldrin during Apollo 11 Mission
Black Lives Matter Activists in Auburn during Protests in Summer of 2020


Part III: Festivity and Family: Memory through Tradition (coming soon)