• Students at The Yager Museum of Art & Culture
  • Yager Museum basket collection
  • Students at The Yager Museum of Art & Culture
  • Hartwick Yager Museum painting by Kent

Museum History

The Founding of The Yager Museum of Art & Culture

Willard E. Yager was born in Oneonta, New York on December 19, 1855. His parents, David and Emogene Yager were prominent town members. As a boy, he was free to pursue his interests and after accidentally stumbling upon a Native American artifact in the woods near his home, he quickly became fascinated with archeology. This evolved into a deep sense of pride and curiosity concerning the Upper Susquehanna River Valley's prehistory.

After attending the Phillips-Exeter Academy and Cornell University, Yager entered Harvard University Law School in1877. In 1882, after finishing a law apprenticeship in Albany, Yager returned to Oneonta and assumed the editorship of the Oneonta Herald, the town's weekly paper. Retiring from the newspaper in 1890, he became a gentleman scholar dedicating his time to the study of Upper Susquehanna archeology. Yager died in 1929.

During his life, Willard Yager assembled an impressive local archaeological collection of nearly 6, 000 meticulously documented artifacts. He also published several books about prehistory and Native Americans including: The Orite of Adequentaga, The Oneonta, Non-Combatants, and Red Man as Soldier. Willard Yager's interests in prehistory and the lives of Native Americans led him to seek out comparative materials from elsewhere in the United States, including a large collection of Southwestern ceramics and basketry and important Plains Indian materials.

While Willard E. Yager should be given credit as a founding pioneer of Upper Susquehanna Valley archaeology, equal praise should be given to his sister, Marion, for her life-long support of her brother's vision. As executor of Willard's last will and testament, Marion fulfilled her brother's wish to find a permanent home for his archaeological collection, ethnographic materials, vast library, and personal effects. Following his death in 1929, the collection was donated to Hartwick College.

At the time of Yager's death the collection was housed at 19 Ford Avenue in the Yager Long House Museum. The collections moved to the Hartwick College campus in 1967 with the completion of the five-story Yager Hall. The collections of Willard E. Yager were then housed and displayed along side the College's other collections of art, archaeology, and ethnography and The Yager Museum of Art & Culture at Hartwick College was born.

Willard E. Yager's Upper Susquehanna Collection is perhaps one of the best documented regional archaeological collections in New York State. Hartwick College is both proud and honored to provide stewardship for this historically and archaeologically important collection. The Jane des Grange Gallery is the permanent home to the Willard E. Yager Upper Susquehanna Collection.