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May 8, 2014

Falk's 'Barns of New York' resonates with general public

Even though it was published in 2012, Cynthia Falk, a professor of material culture at the Cooperstown Graduate Program is still receiving attention for her book “Barns of New York.”

“So far the reaction has been very strong,” said Falk, who is also a village trustee in Cooperstown. “I’m getting a lot of invitations to speak at various places.”

Published by Cornell University Press, Falk described the book as a catalog and guidebook of the agricultural landscape of New York, both for those who own and those who love historic farmsteads. It is her second book, and contains more than 200 pictures. She also said that it was written to appeal beyond an academic audience.

“I really wanted it to be a general audience book,” said Falk.

Falk said that she began doing research in 2006, after the project was suggested to her by The Farmers’ Museum. Despite its title, the book doesn’t just focus on barns, choosing instead to cover all types of farm buildings. It also doesn’t exclusively focus on the past.

“I really wanted to connect agriculture across time,” said Falk, who said that the book follows New York agricultural buildings and their uses from the first Euro-American practices all the way up to the present day.

For her research, Falk said that she took advantage of the fact that students have been documenting farmsteads at the Cooperstown Graduate Program since the program began in 1964. She also utilized what she described as short cut approaches, such as a now discontinued state grant program for barn repair, and National Historic Registry entries for round and octagonal barns in the state. Additionally, Falk did extensive fieldwork, driving New York state Route 17, New York state Route 20 and New York state Route 28 in search of sites to document.

“There were certain things that I … (was) definitely keeping an eye out for,” said Falk.

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