Visiting the Iroquois Museum

The Epic Summer Road Trip has so many stories! In a little over two weeks I drove from Greenville, SC, up to the DelMarVa peninsula, onwards to New Jersey, out to Boston, and then back to the mountains of western Massachusetts and the Adirondack Valley. It was there that I stopped for a day to visit the Iroquois Museum near Howe’s Cave NY, and to get ready for another week of fun by doing my laundry in Schoharie, before dropping back south through the Poconos and to West Virginia.

Driving to the Iroquois Museum is easy, it’s just a few miles down the well-paved and well-marked Cavern Road from I-88. I found it because I stopped for gas, got some coffee, saw I had some time, and checked Google Maps for attractions nearby. It was a great find on a loosely planned road trip with lots of time left open for me to discover things as I went. The museum is in a modern longhouse surrounded by walking paths and a 45-acre nature park. Ample safe and free parking, a nominal admission fee, lots of space, everything a person driving around the northeast for a couple of weeks might want to find.

Outside the first thing I noticed was a sign explaining that Yes, there is a cat on the grounds, and No, it’s not a stray, it belongs there, please don’t take it with you. The cat was lying in the sun next thing to a cart of used books for sale. I had fun browsing a variety of books about crafts and history, and picked up a about Welsh Prince Madoc’s exploration of North America, that as of this writing, three months later, is still sitting the tall pile of books-to-read.

Inside, the place was active with school children. It was the first weekdays after Memorial Day weekend, and it was either a school field trip or the first weeks of summer day camp. The kids were respectful as they worked to fill out a scavenger hunt, and I had plenty of time to wander out-of-order to stay out of their way.

The exhibits and gift shop are on the main floor. There is a back deck, with even more children out there doing activities on the day I was there. Upstairs has staff areas, and the downstairs is a large interactive area for children. The downstairs children’s area was fantastic, tons of fun crafts and activities, I’d definitely take children there to explore and get hands on after viewing the exhibits on the main floor.

The museum has a wide variety of items – drawers of arrowheads carefully sorted and catalogued, walls and display cases full of both old and new creations. Sculpture, paintings, pottery, beadwork. Every type of art imaginable. So many different types of stories and legends represented. There was a display case with information about the missionaries and St. Kateri Tekawitha, whose story captivated me as a young reader. The watercolors of Ernest P Smith were exceptionally wonderful. There were several works by different artists illustrating stories about the Stone Giants, which were very interesting too. The overlap between Native American myth and modern sci-fi and fantasy is so strong that wandering the museum might be a trip to Tolkien’s Middle Earth, if there weren’t signs saying otherwise. You can browse some of the Iroquois collections at their online database.

It was a joyful and wonderful space to spend time, and I can’t say enough good things about it. Museums of all sorts are so important, and this one is beautiful. From the grounds, the architecture, to the exhibits, this is a wonderful space. The effort that people put forth to collect art, chronicle their stories, and create spaces for children to explore is one of the best things humans do for each other. And for me, it’s such a pleasure to have time to spend exploring different cultures and their stories and creations. I am filled with gratitude.

Life goes on, I had a car full of dirty clothes and a campsite booked outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, for the night. So onwards to the charming town of Schoharie, where every nice thing anyone ever said on Google Maps about Schoharie Laundromat are true. It was a wonderful couple of hours chatting with people and reading books. That evening made it to my campsite outside Scranton, about which all I can say is “stunning railroad bridges,” and had clean clothes for my long weekend in Lewisburg, West Virginia.

Photo credits:
Museum from
Additional reference – stories and myths of the Iroquois –

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