An "Alternative Place"

 Protesters outside of Woolworths on the Commons. Image from the Photo Collection  at The History Center in Tompkins County.

Protesters outside of Woolworths on the Commons. Image from the Photo Collection  at The History Center in Tompkins County.

The History Center in Tompkins County hosted two lunch-time discussions leading up to this year’s Ithaca Festival. The conversations lined up well with gearing up for the celebration of all that is Ithaca. Ithaca/Tompkins County has the reputation of being an “alternative place.” Ithaca and Tompkins County have historically been involved in social movements. We are actively exploring ways to include those histories in the exhibit hall in the emerging Tompkins Center for History and Culture and in potential Ithaca Heritage tours. These themes lend themselves to working in partnership with other organizations and groups.

There is a great deal of material to work with. While there are disagreements about just how alternative we are, most would agree that we have that reputation. While there are other communities throughout the United States that have a similar reputation we have a somewhat unique set of characteristics. We have an interesting combination of landscape and geography, academic institutions, agricultural traditions, and a diverse population that lends itself to social, cultural and entrepreneurial experimentation. We also have been involved in several social movements covering a broad range of issues including racial, social and economic equity; environmental health; voting rights; and marriage equality. There is a likely correlation between our alternative components and active social involvement.

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Membership of the Moosewood Restaurant in the 1980s:

(top row) David Hirsch, Tony del Plato; (row 2) Bob Love, Laura Branca, Lisa Wichmann; (row 3) Ned Asta, Elianna Parra, Nancy Lazarus, Linda Dickinson, Maureen Vivino; (row 4) Tom Walls, Maggie Pitkin, Susan Harville, and Wynelle Stein.  Courtesy of Ithaca.com. Photograph by Kathy Morris

Ithaca and Tompkins County are comprised of multiple communities that are dynamic, involved and innovative. We look forward to conveying and highlighting our alternative and social movement histories in the Tompkins Center for History and Culture.