The Albany Institute of History and Art (“AIHA”) is one of the oldest museums in the United States. Its focus has changed over the centuries from agriculture to fine art. AIHA has significant collections of fine art and historical artifacts including a collection of Hudson River School paintings. In addition, it hosts traveling exhibitions.
AIHA began as the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts. Founded in 1791 in New York City, the membership included many important political figures including Robert Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and John Jay, one of the authors of the U.S. Constitution and the first Chief Justice of the United States. The society acted as the advisor on agriculture to the New York State Legislature. Accordingly, when Albany became the state capital, the organization moved north along with the Legislature. By the same token, when the Legislature created a state department of agriculture, it no longer needed the Society and the organization went into decline.
Merging with the Albany Lyceum of Natural History in 1822, the name was changed to the Albany Institute and focus of the organization shifted to the natural sciences. This revived the organization for a time but its fortunes declined in the 1830s so that it was dormant during the next decade.
In the 1850s the organization took on a broader scope and that attracted new members including the rich and powerful. At the turn of the century, it merged with the Albany Historical and Art Society to become the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society. This rather ungainly name was changed to its present name in 1926.
During the 20th century, the focus of AIHA shifted to art and history. In addition, while the organization seeks to take a global view, it emphasizes the art and history of the Upper Hudson River Valley. Its mission is to connect “diverse audiences to the art, history, and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley through its collections, exhibitions, and programs.” It sees itself bringing “a global perspective to the art, history, and culture of the Upper Hudson Valley, creating physical and virtual experiences for the education, entertainment, and inspiration of people of all ages.”
The museum's collections include 35,000 objects, including 1,600 paintings; 1,600 drawings; 4,000; prints and 600 sculptures as well as other works of art. AIHA also has an extensive research library.
AIHA is housed in three connected buildings at the corner of Washington and Dove Streets. It is only a few blocks from the historic New York State Capitol and Empire State Plaza.
For more information on visiting, see AIHA's website.
Above: An exhibition on 1920s fashion design.
Below: The Sculpture Gallery.
Places to see art - - Albany, New York - - Albany Institute of History and Art