The Board of Trustees for the Cayuga Museum is pleased to see the discussion on this page regarding Theodore Case and his invention of talking movies. We are working hard to make Theodore Case and the Case Research Laboratory internationally famous. However, we feel that it is important to clarify some important points. Case did not donate his mansion to the city of Auburn; he donated it to the Cayuga Museum Association in order to create the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. The Cayuga Museum opened in 1936, when the Case Research Laboratory was still in operation. It was five years later, in 1941, when Theodore Case closed the Case Research Laboratory, that he donated the Lab — and everything in it — to the collection of the Cayuga Museum. That was when we became the stewards of Theodore Case’s legacy. Founding Museum Director Walter Long had an exhibit honoring Case’s work in the main gallery of the Cayuga Museum for decades.
In 1996, the Cayuga Museum rehabilitated the Case Research Laboratory building, and began telling the story of Theodore Case in the Lab itself. The Case story is not a hidden history waiting to be discovered, it is a story we are telling to tens of thousands of visitors, about 9,000 every year, and invite everyone to come see the hard work being done at the Museum and to tour the Lab.
Additionally it has been said that Case used his royalties from the sale of his invention to build several of Auburn’s well-known buildings, including the Seymour Library and Casowasco. In fact, the money to build what we call Seymour Library was donated by Willard Case (Theodore Case’s father) in memory of his own father. Casowasco was built in the mid-1800s as the Case summer home.
Theodore Case is not being ignored in his hometown; our very small staff to preserve and disseminate his story has done much work. We are currently engaged in the first phase in a three-part process that will culminate in a world-class new interpretive exhibition in the Case Research Lab. The Cayuga Museum and Case Research Laboratory are also part of the West End Arts Campus project submitted to Auburn’s DRI committee.
Christina M. Calarco and Sara Brown
Christina M. Calarco is president and Sara Brown is vice president of the Cayuga Museum Board of Trustees.