Our Organization:

Wharton Studio Museum’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American film. WSM aims to create a museum in the historic Wharton Studio building, one of a handful of silent film studio buildings still in existence in the United States.

WSM received a Provisional Museum Charter from the NYS Board of Regents in 2013 and produces community-based programming, exhibits, and events. In 2016 WSM is creating new digital collections of Wharton Studio films, digital based exhibits and planning a silent short-film competition in addition to regular annual programming.

Working in partnership with Friends of Stewart Park and the City of Ithaca (the park landowner) WSM aims to transform the building into a park center to be known as the Wharton Pavilion with the Wharton Studio Museum as its focal point. The building is located in scenic Stewart Park along the southern shore of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, NY. Currently the building is used by the City of Ithaca Dept. of Public Works for park maintenance and storage. Re-purposing this lakefront historic former silent movie studio into a vibrant cultural and recreational park center will enhance the park,  better serve the community and promote heritage tourism in the region.

Support for the future museum has grown through our numerous community-based cultural and educational events to date, including screenings, programs, multimedia exhibits, and presentations in Ithaca and throughout Tompkins County.

Recently we have partnered with Friends of Stewart Park (FSP) to realize our shared goal of revitalizing historic Stewart Park. Wharton Studio Museum’s work with Friends of Stewart Park focuses on reestablishing a cultural hub at the center of the  park. Our shared vision is to steward, in partnership with the the City of Ithaca, a major renovation of the former Wharton Studio building into the Wharton Pavilion. This new community center will encompass:

  • the new Wharton Studio Museum focused on the Ithaca area’s silent movie history
  • space for interpretive exhibits on the park’s history, lake ecology, and birding
  • a lakefront café with indoor and outdoor seating
  • a seminar/conference room and gift shop

The museum will facilitate educational programming about film history and visual storytelling for school groups, IYB Stewart Park summer camp, and other community groups. The museum’s main gallery space, as well as smaller galleries, and the café are purposely being designed as multifunctional spaces available for rental by the public. The goal is to complement and enhance the space available in the park for community use. We welcome your input for these plans and greatly appreciate offers of volunteer work to help move them along. Please contact us via email to learn more about how you can help!

Our Mission

Wharton Studio Museum’s mission is to preserve and celebrate the role Ithaca and the region played in the history of American film.

Our History

Since 2009 WSM has produced dozens of community-based programs while working toward establishing a bricks & mortar museum within the former Wharton Studio building.


  • Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit as Ithaca Motion Picture Project.


  • Debut of Silent Movies Under the Stars.* Now in its 6th year, this popular annual outdoor screening of a silent Wharton film with live music is held each summer at Taughannock Falls State Park in collaboration with the Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation. The event is free and open to the public.


  • Produced Romance, Exploits & Peril: When Movies were made in Ithaca* a countywide exhibit housed in eight locations on the history of early filmmaking and the Wharton Studio’s role in the emerging art form and industry of the early 20th century.
  • WSM organized a volunteer-led beautification of the exterior of the Wharton Studio/Department of Public Works building in Stewart Park, which included cleaning, painting, and window repair of the building exterior.


  • October officially became Silent Movie Month in the City of Ithaca** as proclaimed by Mayor Svante Myrick. Since then WSM has collaborated with Cinemapolis, Tompkins County Public Library, Gimme Coffee!, Ithaca Made Movies and the Museum of the Earth on 4-6 silent film events throughout the city during the month of October.


  • Officially became Wharton Studio Museum upon receipt of a Provisional Museum Charter from the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents.


  • Launched www.WhartonStudioMuseum.org.
  • Led the fundraising and design for exterior interpretive signs that recount the history of each of the three main buildings in Stewart Park: the Picnic (Large) Pavilion, the Wharton Pavilion, and the Cascadilla Boathouse.


  • Sponsored films at Ithaca College’s Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF).
  • Led the fundraising and design of an interpretive sign for the newly restored Tea (Small) Pavilion at Stewart Park.
  • Co-launched development of plans with Friends of Stewart Park for a comprehensive park revitalization, including major renovation and transformation of the Wharton Pavilion into a museum.


  • Collaborating on an exhibit with Cornell University’s Costume & Textile Collection about fashion during the silent film era.
  • Co-sponsoring two silent film and live music events with Cornell Cinema.

Since 2009 WSM has given countless presentations on Ithaca’s role in the silent film industry to numerous local institutions and organizations including Ithaca College, Cornell University, Tompkins County Public Library, City Club, Rotary Club, Cornell Adult University, Cornell Alumni Affairs, and McGraw House.

* Free and open to the public.
**Most events free and open to the public.

Our Collaborating Partners

  • Cayuga Medical Center
  • Cinemapolis
  • Cornell Cinema
  • Cornell Costume & Textile Collection
  • Cornell University Alumni Affairs
  • Friends of Stewart Park & the City of Ithaca
  • Gimme! Coffee
  • Ithaca College: Park School of Communication
  • Ithaca International Fantastic Film Festival
  • Ithaca Made Movies
  • Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport
  • NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation
  • The History Center
  • The State Theatre
  • Tompkins County Public Library

Our Business Sponsors

  • M&T Bank
  • Travis Hyde Properties
  • Hi-Way Hi-Fi
  • Taitem Engineering
  • Schickel Construction
  • Audrey Edelman/Realty USA
  • Sigma Chi
  • Lee Newhart, State Farm Insurance
  • Petrune
  • Tompkins Trust Co.
  • Air Nav
  • Red Feet Wine Market
  • Black Oak Wind Farm

Our Grants & Foundation Support

  • Tompkins County Tourism Project
  • Park Foundation
  • Brooks Family Foundation
  • Norathco Foundation



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